California Fights Inflation by Sending People Free Money

“Every taxpayer earning less than $75,000, or joint-filers earning less than $150,000, will receive a $350 check, plus another $350 if they have children, reports CBS. A married couple with children would qualify for the maximum of $1,050. Higher-income people would receive smaller refunds.

The checks are the most advertised portion of a budget deal totaling some $300 billion. They help dispense with a $97 billion budget surplus buoyed by unexpectedly high tax returns from the highest-income Californians.

It should almost go without saying that giving out individual stimulus checks is more likely to exacerbate inflation than cure it. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, which included $1,400 stimulus checks, is estimated by one Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco analysis to have raised inflation by 3 percentage points.”

The January 6 committee calls Trump out for his scams

“In the second January 6 hearing, House lawmakers argued Monday that former President Donald Trump not only engaged in the “big lie” — promoting the false narrative that the election was stolen from him — but also what they dubbed the “big ripoff.” Effectively, they said, Trump conned his supporters into giving him $250 million to contest the election results, while actually funneling many of those funds elsewhere, including to a nonprofit led by former chief of staff Mark Meadows and to Trump’s own hotels.

“We found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said in a closing statement for the hearing. “So not only was there the big lie, there was the big ripoff.”

As video testimony from former Trump campaign officials revealed, small-dollar donors were bombarded with emails to donate to an official “Election Defense Fund” in the wake of the 2020 election. Those donors were told that fund was aimed at combating (nonexistent) election fraud. In reality, however, no such fund existed, according to the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

“I don’t believe there was actually a fund called the Election Defense Fund,” Hanna Allred, a former Trump campaign staffer, testified to the committee. Ultimately, the fund was what another staffer categorized as a “marketing tactic” to bring in more money, most of which did not go to election-related litigation.

Instead, many of the funds were directed to a newly created Save America PAC, which has contributed millions to other pro-Trump groups. That includes $1 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a charity foundation helmed by Meadows, $5 million to Event Strategies Inc., the vendor that put on Trump’s January 6 rally, and $204,857 to the Trump Hotel Collection.”

Americans Want Change. Private Mints Are the Solution.

“Two years after a lack of spending brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic caused a coin shortage, American retailers still find themselves short on change.
In March, industry representatives called on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for help as the shortage lingers, but they’re unlikely to find relief. The federal government has been steadfast in its commitment to present only short-term solutions, like rationing coins or pushing social media campaigns. If the government actually wanted to solve the problem, it would allow the private sector to produce its own coins.

In 2020, the combination of government-mandated lockdowns, consumer health concerns, and a shutdown of the U.S. Mint brought the circulation of coins to all but a grinding halt. Though the economy at large is much better than it was in summer 2020, the circulation of coins has struggled to recover.

While some businesses have chosen to break away from cash transactions altogether in response to the shortage, others don’t have that luxury. Brian Wallace, chief executive of the Coin Laundry Association said, “[If] we can’t make change, we can’t make money.” That reality became clear when some business owners began driving for hours to find available coins.

Consumers have been hit hard too. For the 7.1 million unbanked and 24.2 million underbanked households in America, cash is one of the most important resources they have for making purchases. The coin shortage has locked many of them out of the economy or caused them to incur new costs on top of current inflation.

The Federal Reserve’s main response has been to ration coins “based on historical order volume by coin denomination and depository institution endpoint, and current U.S. Mint production levels.” The U.S. Mint, through advertisements and social media campaigns, also asked the public to “pay with exact change and return any spare change to circulation by depositing coins, exchanging them for bills at a financial institution or taking them to a coin redemption kiosk.” And a “U.S. Coin Task Force” was convened to monitor the ongoing shortage. At best, these are merely short term solutions.”

States Are Flush With Cash

“As state legislators kicked off their 2022 sessions this spring and started planning new budgets, many found that their tax coffers were overflowing. What lawmakers do with that extra money could have long-range consequences.
The excess revenue resulted from a convergence of two windfalls. State tax collections rose sharply in 2021 as the pandemic waned, businesses fully reopened, and consumers started spending again. And the federal government showered states with more than $360 billion as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021. The passage of President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill means even more federal taxpayer money for state treasuries in the near future.

All told, state revenues (including federal funds) increased by more than 12 percent in 2021, according to data from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Thirty-two states reported higher than expected revenue in 2021, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

As a result, many states now have significant year-over-year budget surpluses for the current year. California leads the way with a $31 billion surplus—an amount larger than many states’ entire annual budgets. Florida ($11.2 billion surplus), Maryland ($4.6 billion), Minnesota ($7.7 billion), and Virginia ($2.6 billion) also have large cash reserves. But state lawmakers should be careful about letting the extra dough burn a hole in their pockets.

“It’s understandable that there is all this pent-up demand for different kinds of new programs or tax cuts,” says Josh Goodman, a senior officer with Pew’s state fiscal health initiative. The impulse to use surpluses for pet projects, Goodman says, ignores data that suggest many states are running long-term structural deficits—largely due to pension obligations and health care costs in programs like Medicaid. “The question is not just what’s the budget situation this year,” Goodman says, “but what is the budget -situation going to be five or 10 years down the road.””

Russia’s finance minister has admitted the country can’t use nearly half its $640 billion foreign currency war chest because of Western sanctions

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/russias-finance-minister-admitted-country-035159374.html

It was a great day in the Supreme Court for anyone who wants to bribe a lawmaker

“The case is Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, and it involves a federal law intended to prevent campaign donors from putting money directly into the pockets of elected officials. Specifically, the law permits candidates to loan money to their own campaigns, but forbids the campaign from repaying more than $250,000 of that loan from funds raised after the election takes place.

Typically, federal law draws a sharp line between money donated to a campaign, which can only be spent on the election effort, and money given directly to a candidate, which is ordinarily not allowed. But loan repayments exist in a gray area between these two kinds of donations. Yes, money repaid to a candidate ostensibly just reimburses that candidate for money they fronted during the campaign. But any dollar given by donors to repay such loans still goes into the pocket of a former candidate who may very well be a powerful elected official by the time they receive the money.

Without a cap on loan repayments, elected officials with clever accountants could profit off of their donors. In 1998, for example, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) made a $150,000 loan to her campaign at 18 percent interest (though she later reduced that interest rate to 10 percent). By 2009, she’d reportedly raised $221,780 to repay that loan, meaning that she earned at least $71,000 in profits.

Thus, should this challenge to the repayment cap succeed — and it appears overwhelmingly likely to succeed — elected officials could potentially make enormous loans to their campaigns at high interest rates, and then use those loans as a vehicle to accept bribes from lobbyists and other donors who want to trade money for access to the official.”

States have the power to make or break the infrastructure law

“Now that President Joe Biden has signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the bipartisan infrastructure framework, or BIF) into law, the federal government faces a new challenge: getting the funds out to states and cities.

In the coming months — and years — federal agencies will distribute billions of dollars for everything from bridge repairs to public transit expansions to bike paths. Most of this money will go directly to state governments, which will have significant discretion over which projects they’d like to fund.”

GOP lobbyists say corporate America is coming back into the tent

“Campaign money flows to those holding power or those positioned to do so, and those in the lobbying business are incentivized to play up their role in facilitating it. But corporate America’s potential embrace of the congressional GOP is notable for what preceded it. Following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, many top corporations vowed to withhold their political donations to the Republican lawmakers who objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory, which includes members in the House GOP leadership ranks. Comcast, Mastercard, American Express and others announced they would not give to those lawmakers; others suspended political contributions entirely.”

““Where we are today from where we were six to eight months ago is a fundamentally different political environment,” said David Tamasi, managing director of Chartwell Strategy Group and a lobbyist with ties to former President Donald Trump. “I think people are realizing that you know it’s likely that the House is gonna flip, and that you’re gonna have to engage with some of the folks that are going to have greater political profiles than they did previously.”
For those on K Street, corporate PAC donations serve as a key tool for access and favors. And the decision to withhold donations vexed GOP lawmakers, two Republican lobbyists said. Additionally, GOP lobbyists at major companies have grown frustrated with expectations that they are supposed to deliver results for their businesses while unable to give to those members who objected to the results of the election, according to one K Street insider. The same lobbyist speculated that the GOP’s frustration with the business community over the lack of donations could cause the party to be less amenable to corporate interests.”

““I think they’ll want to figure out how to repair relationships with people that hold gavels and hold chairmanships that are important,” Geduldig said.”