“Donald Trump’s outraged response to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment of him contained the usual mix of bombast and self-pity, with a predictable dollop of conspiracy-mongering. One line of attack stood out in particular: He accused Bragg of being “hand-picked and funded by George Soros.”
Trump wasn’t alone. The alleged Bragg-Soros connection has been everywhere in the Republican response to the indictment, including in comments from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, and a host of other prominent Republicans and Fox News coverage. It often gets shorthanded into a two-word phrase: “Soros-backed.”
Soros, a nonagenarian Holocaust survivor and billionaire financier, is a longstanding hate figure among conservatives. Over the past two decades, elements of the right in both the United States and his native Hungary have engaged in a concerted campaign to turn Soros into a boogeyman — the shadowy power behind transatlantic liberalism.
Though Bragg has never been directly funded by Soros, the accusation of a link isn’t entirely out of whole cloth — Bragg’s 2021 campaign for district attorney does seem to have indirectly received some of his financial support. But the intensity of the accusation certainly doesn’t seem proportionate to the tenuousness of the connection.
To liberals, the Soros accusation smacks of nothing less than antisemitism. “Just replace ‘Soros-backed’ with ‘Jewy Jew Jewish Jewy Jew,’” the popular comedian John Fugelsang tweeted in response to DeSantis’s attack on Bragg. Naturally, conservatives have denied the charge and argued that liberals are just trying to suppress reasonable criticism of a prominent Democratic donor.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with criticizing Soros’s philanthropic work, especially his partisan donations to the Democratic Party. But it’s difficult to separate the criticisms from the context — and the last two decades of attacks on Soros have turned him into a stand-in for a certain kind of Jewish “rootless cosmopolitan” that allows politicians to appeal to antisemitism without having to do so explicitly.
In the Trump populist era, attacks on so-called “globalists” — a term long used on the extreme right as a euphemism for “Jews” — have become increasingly common on the mainstream right. The increasing mainstream flirtation with antisemitic stereotypes and rhetoric has made the subtext of the attacks on Soros harder and harder to deny.”
“It’s true that Soros supported pro-democracy activists and civil society groups in former communist states — but that doesn’t make him the “puppet master” secretly getting people out into the streets to demonstrate against dictators. The idea that a Jewish financier is secretly masterminding global events against the interests of rooted local conservatives — it doesn’t take a scholar of antisemitism to see what Beck was drawing on here.”
“When Trump and his allies tried to position the so-called “migrant caravan” as a major threat to America before the 2018 midterms, the president told reporters that “a lot of people say” Soros was behind it. You heard similar rhetoric from Donald Trump Jr. and Republicans in Congress.
This was a baseless lie, and an antisemitic one to boot. The idea that Jewish money is bringing in nonwhite immigrants to menace the United States is a staple of far-right rhetoric — one that had been voiced by a shooter who killed 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.”
“Many more thoughtful conservatives have argued that Soros is a principal funder of the “progressive prosecutor” movement, a nationwide campaign to elect district attorneys who aim to try and tackle problems like mass incarceration by (for example) refusing to prosecute certain low-level crimes. Bragg is one such progressive prosecutor, and seems to be the beneficiary of Soros’s funding: Shortly after the group Color of Change pledged roughly $1 million to support Bragg, they received roughly $1 million in funding from Soros.”
“Conservative criticisms of Soros’s support of “progressive prosecutors” are not necessarily antisemitic. If what they were saying was “progressive prosecutors raise crime rates and it’s bad that Soros is supporting them,” that would be one thing.
But what they’re actually doing is claiming that Trump’s prosecution is illegitimate and politically motivated — and that support from Soros is proof of said illegitimacy. The same “puppet-master” implication is invoked (remember Trump’s words: “hand-picked”). And it beggars belief that these conservatives don’t know that the Trumpist faithful won’t fill in those conspiratorial (and yes, antisemitic) blanks.
So it’s certainly possible to criticize George Soros without being antisemitic in the abstract. But at this point, we know what a dog whistle from Donald Trump and his ilk sounds like, and it’s hard to ignore that the chorus of attacks on the Soros-Bragg connection hit those same notes.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.””
“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.”
“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.”