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Archive for October, 2021

Oklahoma executes inmate who dies vomiting and convulsing

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma administered the death penalty Thursday on a man who convulsed and vomited as he was executed for the 1998 slaying of a prison cafeteria worker, ending a six-year execution moratorium brought on by concerns over its execution methods,

John Marion Grant, 60, who was strapped to a gurney inside the execution chamber, began convulsing and vomiting after the first drug, the sedative midazolam, was administered. Several minutes later, two members of the execution team wiped the vomit from his face and neck.

Before the curtain was raised to allow salomon boots witnesses to see into the execution chamber, Grant could be heard yelling, “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” He delivered a stream of profanities before the lethal injection started. He was declared unconscious about 15 minutes after the first of three drugs was administered and declared dead about six minutes after that, at 4:21 p.m.

Someone vomiting while being executed is rare, according to observers.

“I’ve never heard of or seen that,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center. “That is notable and unusual.”

Michael Graczyk, a retired Associated Press reporter who still covers executions for the organization on a freelance basis, has witnessed the death penalty being carried out about 450 times. He said Thursday he could only recall one instance of someone vomiting while being put to death.

The Oklahoma attorney general and governor did not respond to questions about Grant’s reactions to the drugs. In fact, Department of Corrections spokesman Justin Wolf said by email that the execution “was carried out in accordance with Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ protocols and without complication.”

A statement from Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt referenced a section of the Oklahoma Constitution in which voters overwhelmingly enshrined the death penalty.

“Today, the Department of Corrections carried out the law of the State of Oklahoma and delivered justice to Gay Carter’s family,” Stitt said.

Grant was the first person in Oklahoma to be executed since a series of flawed lethal injections in 2014 and 2015. He serving a 130-year prison sentence for several armed robberies when witnesses say he dragged prison cafeteria worker Gay Carter into a mop closet and stabbed her 16 times with a homemade shank. He was sentenced to die in 1999.

“At least now we are starting to get justice for our loved ones,” Carter’s daughter, Pamela Gay Carter, said in a statement. “The death penalty is about protecting any potential future victims. Even after Grant was removed from society, he committed an act of violence that took an innocent life. I pray that justice prevails for all the other victims’ loved ones. My heart and prayers go out to you all.”

Oklahoma moved forward with the lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, lifted stays of execution that were put bluetooth headphones in place on Wednesday for Grant and another death row inmate, Julius Jones, by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The state’s Pardon and Parole Board twice denied Grant’s request for clemency, including a 3-2 vote this month to reject a recommendation that his life be spared.

Oklahoma had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers until problems in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium. Richard Glossip was just hours away from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug. It was later learned the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection — and after the state’s prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

While the moratorium was in place, Oklahoma moved ahead with plans to use nitrogen gas to execute inmates, but ultimately scrapped that idea and announced last year that it planned to resume executions using the same three-drug lethal injection protocol that was used during the flawed executions. The three drugs are: midazolam, a sedative, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Oklahoma prison officials recently announced that they had confirmed a source to supply all the drugs needed for Grant’s execution plus six more that are scheduled to take place through March.

“Extensive validations and redundancies have been implemented since the last execution in order to ensure that the process works as intended,” the Department of Corrections said in a statement.

More than two dozen Oklahoma death row inmates are part of a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocols, arguing that the three-drug method risks causing unconstitutional pain and suffering. A trial is set for early next year.

Dale Baich, an attorney for some of the death row inmates in that suit, said eyewitness accounts of Grant’s lethal injection show Oklahoma’s death penalty protocol isn’t working as it was designed.

“This is why the U.S. Supreme Court should not have lifted the stay,” Baich said in a statement. “There should be no more executions in Oklahoma until we go (to) trial in February to address the state’s problematic lethal injection protocol.”

Grant and five other death row inmates were dismissed from the lawsuit after none of them selected an alternative method of execution, which a federal judge said was necessary. But a three-member panel of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the inmates did identify alternative methods of execution, even if they didn’t specifically check a box designating which technique skechers outlet they would use. The panel had granted stays of execution on Wednesday for Grant and Jones, whose lethal injection is set for Nov. 18.

Jones — whose case has drawn national attention since being featured in 2018 on the ABC television documentary series “The Last Defense” — has a clemency hearing set for Tuesday. Jones, 41, has maintained his innocence in the 1999 shooting death of an Oklahoma City-area businessman. The state Pardons and Parole Board in March recommended that Stitt, the governor, commute his death sentence to life imprisonment.

Stitt has said he will not decide whether to spare Jones’ life until the clemency hearing.

Grant and his attorneys did not deny that he killed Carter.

“John Grant took full responsibility for the murder of Gay Carter, and he spent his years on death row trying to understand and atone for his actions, more than any other client I have worked with,” attorney Sarah Jernigan said Thursday in a statement after the execution.

But Grant’s attorneys argued that key facts about the crime and Grant’s troubled childhood were never presented to the jury. They maintained that Grant developed deep feelings for Carter and was upset when she fired him after he got in a fight with another kitchen worker.

“Jurors never heard that Mr. Grant killed Ms. Gay Carter while in the heat of passion and despair over the abrupt end of the deepest and most important adult relationship of his life,” his attorneys wrote in his clemency application.

Pamela Carter, who also worked at the prison and was there the day her mother was killed, rejected the idea that her mother and Grant had anything more than a professional relationship and urged state officials to move forward with the execution.

“I understand he’s trying to save his life, but you keep victimizing my mother with these stupid allegations,” she told the Pardon and Parole Board this month. “My mother was vivacious. She was friendly. She didn’t meet a stranger. She treated her workers just as you would on a job on the outside. For someone to take advantage of that is just heinous.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene buys up to $50,000 worth of Trump SPAC stock during week of wild fluctuation

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 22: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), joined by members of the Freedom Caucus, speaks at a news conference about the National Defense Authorization Bill at the U.S. Capitol on September 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Freedom Caucus announced they will not support the military funding bill, saying it does not hold President Biden accountable for the Afghanistan withdrawal, it undermines homeland security and they oppose the female draft amendment to the bill.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., purchased as much as $50,000 in stock of the company that plans to merge with former president Donald Trump’s new media firm, the congresswoman disclosed in a filing on Tuesday.

Greene, an ardent Trump supporter, skechers outlet on Friday purchased between $15,001 and $50,000 in shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. The firm is a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, created to buy another business and give it a stock-market listing. Digital World trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker “DWAC.”

Digital World’s stock price swung widely on Friday, opening at $118.79 per share and rising as high as $175 per share. At its lowest, a share in Digital World sold for $67.96 that day. It is not clear what price Greene bought the shares at.

On Tuesday, when Greene disclosed the purchase in a congressional filing, the stock closed at $59.07 per share. On Wednesday, it closed at $64.89. The disclosure was first noted by congresstrading.com, which tracks stock purchases by members of Congress.

Since news of Digital World’s proposed combination with Trump’s company, the “meme stock” had been the subject of posts on the Reddit channel WallStreetBets, a forum where day traders have seized on stocks like GameStop and AMC.

Trump Media and Technology Group said last week that it would merge with Digital World as it announced the development of a new social media platform called Truth Social. Trump said in a statement that the network would “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.” The former president was booted from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

The chief executive of Digital World, Patrick Orlando, said last week that “given the total addressable market and President Trump’s large following, we believe the [Trump Media and Technology Group] opportunity has the potential to create significant shareholder value.”

Other social media platforms, including several targeted at conservatives, have tried, largely unsuccessfully,bluetooth headphones  to chip away at the hold that Facebook and Twitter have in the United States. Parler was briefly popular after Trump was forced off Twitter and Facebook, but it was shuttered for weeks by Amazon, which pulled its cloud support over concerns that the platform was not doing enough to moderate incitements to violence. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Trump has been planning Truth Social, which is set to launch in November in beta form and in full next year, for months. After the launch of his blog, “From the Desk of Donald Trump,” was deflated by low readership, he told his advisers he was concerned that the underwhelming performance could cast doubt on the platform he wanted to create, The Washington Post previously reported.

His new company also plans to launch a streaming service that offers “‘non-woke’ entertainment programming, news, podcasts, and more.”

Before it was publicly released, Truth Social was already the subject of online trolling. The site was briefly accessible to the public after the announcement last week, allowing people to claim usernames. One account, under the username “donaldjtrump,” posted a photo of a pig defecating. A Post reporter was able to register and post under the username “mikepence.”

The platform, which appears to be the main focus of Trump’s new media company, bears significant resemblance to Twitter – the platform that paved the way for Trump’s rise to the presidency and defined his four years in office. On Truth Social, users can post “Truths,” like tweets, and “Re-Truths,” like retweets.

Greene, a conspiracy theorist sperry shoes whose rise to political power came with the aid of Trump allies, has repeated the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election was “stolen.” On Twitter, from which she has been suspended several times, she describes herself as “Pro-Life Pro-Gun Pro-Trump.”

“Tell me who’s your president?” Greene asked a crowd at an “America First” event in Florida in May. “Donald Trump!” the crowd replied.

Greene won her seat representing Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, a reliably Republican part of northwest Georgia, in 2020.

Facebook is rebranding itself as ‘Meta’

fb meta

Facebook, the social network, will no longer define the future of Facebook, the company that will now be known as Meta. Facebook Inc. is changing the name in order to distinguish its beleaguered social network, which has an increasingly poor reputation around the globe, from the company that is pinning its future on the promise of a “metaverse.”

“Our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” Zuckerberg said. “From now on, we’re going to be metaverse-first, not Facebook first.”

Zuckerberg announced the new name during a virtual (meta-virtual?) keynote for the company’s Connect event. Under its new arrangement, Facebook and its “family of apps” will be a division of the larger Meta company, which will still be led my Zuckerberg.

The restructuring bears some keen shoes similarities to when Google restructured itself into Alphabet, the holding company that now operates Google, along with its “other bets” like DeepMind and Nest. Facebook previously said it plans to separate Facebook Reality Labs, its AR and VR group, from the rest of the company when reporting its financial performance. In a new statement it added that its”corporate structure” won’t be changing. The company is also changing its stock ticker from FB to MVRS beginning in December.

The company is positioning the name as more reflective of its future ambitions to evolve from social network to metaverse company. Zuckerberg is still defining exactly what being a “metaverse company” means for its main platform and users, but augmented and virtual reality is central to the vision. The company has already shown off an early version of one project, called Horizon Workrooms, that allows people to conduct meetings in VR. The company also previewed new “Horizon Home” and “Horizon Venues” experiences. (All of the company’s social VR products will fall under the larger “Meta Horizon” brand, according to a post from incoming CTO Andrew Bosworth.) And, earlier this month, the company announced plans to hire 10,000 new workers in Europe in order to build out its metaverse.

The name change also comes at one of the most precarious moments in the company’s history. The social network is reeling from the fallout of the “Facebook Papers,” a trove of internal documents collected by a former employee turned whistleblower. The documents have been the basis for a series of complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the source of more than a dozen reports about the company’s failings to stem the tide of misinformation, hate speech and other harms caused by the platform.

The thumb is no more.
The thumb is no more.

The new name also means that the iconic Facebook “thumbs up” will no longer be the company’s official logo or on the signage at its headquarters. (Incidentally, the role of “likes” and other reactions in enabling hate and anger on Facebook has nike outlet been a central narrative of the Facebook Papers disclosures.) In a blog post about the design of the new name and logo, the company said the new logo was optimized for 3D experiences and “designed to be experienced from different perspectives and interacted with.”

It’s worth noting that the new name doesn’t change anything for the main Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp services, which will be known by their existing names. But the services could get more metaverse-oriented experiences with time. Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said that users could expect “a more immersive Instagram experience in the metaverse.” Bosworth also notes that some “relevant products and services” would be rebranded as well, such as the Portal lineup, which will eventually take on “Meta Portal” branding. The company also plans to “retire” the Oculus name, with the VR products taking on the Meta identity.

Missing teenage girl who left Fort Worth home was perhaps persuaded to go, mother says

A teenage girl was likely persuaded by another person to leave her Fort Worth home last week and has not returned or been in touch with her relatives, her mother said on Wednesday.

Dashayla Wolfe, 14, has been missing since Oct. 20. She nike sneakers left between 11:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., her mother, Cynthia Wolfe, said at a news conference outside the Walls of Jericho Deliverance Church in the Stop Six section of the city.

The Baptist Ministers Union of Greater Fort Worth and the Ministers of Justice Coalition of Texas called the conference on the missing teenager.

A 14-year-old Fort Worth girl has been missing since Oct. 20, officials said. Dashayla Wolfe was last seen in her home.
A 14-year-old Fort Worth girl has been missing since Oct. 20, officials said. Dashayla Wolfe was last seen in her home.

Cynthia Wolfe and others offered a plea to her daughter to return home or for someone with information about her location to share it. Walls of Jericho Deliverance Church is offering a $5,000 reward in the case, its pastor, the Rev. John Reed, said.

Dashayla teaches Sunday school at the church and sings in its choir.

Her mother, who is a asics shoes minister at the church, said she believed that Dashayla had been “persuaded to leave in some kind of way.”

“Just come home or let someone know that you are OK,” she said.

A Fort Worth Police Department spokesperson did not answer questions from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about the case.

Dashayla Wolfe was described as biracial with brown hair and hazel eyes. She is about 5-foot-2 and weighs about 190 pounds.

Anyone with information should call Fort Worth police at 817-392-4222.

Remains found in California desert identified as Lauren Cho, missing N.J. woman

Remains found in Southern California are that of Lauren “El” Cho, a New Jersey woman who disappeared in June, officials confirmed Thursday.

The positive identification brought a sad end to the monthslong search for Cho, a Korean American whose case gained renewed interest during the debate over racial disparities in news media coverage about missing persons.

“The cause and manner of death is steve madden shoes pending toxicology results,” according to a statement from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office. “No further information will be released on this case until such time toxicology results are available and new information is discovered as a result.”

The human remains were found on Oct. 9 in the rugged, open desert terrain near her last known location, an artist-oriented Airbnb rental in Yucca Valley, about 30 miles north of Palm Springs.

Authorities had searched the compound and surrounding area several times, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Specialized Investigation Division became involved in late September after local investigators “exhausted their investigation.”

Cho, 30, was first reported missing at around 5 p.m. on June 28, after friends and others staying at the compound said she departed in a state of agitation with no food, water or phone.

About a week later, relatives of Cho activated a Facebook page called “Missing Person: Lauren ‘El’ Cho” to raise awareness about her disappearance.

The case of Cho and those of other women of color appeared to get a boost in attention amid criticism of the news media’s intense focus on the late-summer ecco shoes disappearance and death of Gabby Petito, who was white.

Petito’s remains were found near Grand Teton National Park, and those discovered in the search for Cho were found near Joshua Tree National Park.

“I want to use the attention now and just power through,” one of Cho’s friends tweeted Sept. 20 after Petito’s case became a dominant national story.

Family members behind the Facebook page described Cho’s personality and spirit:

“El is many things … a talented musician, an incredible baker, a hilarious and loyal friend, a strangely intuitive gift giver, and probably the coolest sister one could hope for. But this is where El really shines: as an aunt. The love she has for her nibling is unmatched. Even among family, the consensus is that her nibling is the person El loves most in this world.”

Here’s What’s In And Out Of Biden’s Build Back Better Compromise Deal

President Joe Biden says he has struck a deal with the most conservative members of the Senate to move forward with a $1.75 trillion spending and tax bill — a legislative package meant to reflect the biggest pillars of his agenda.

When Biden says he wants to Build Back Better, this is the bill he’s talking about.

But what the White House is now proposing isn’t what Biden wanted. Over the course of the last month, the White House whittled down its dreams of a $3.5 trillion spending bill over 10 years to appease two key Democratic votes: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).

What they’ve come up with is about half the size of what the majority of congressional Democratic lawmakers had hoped for. That meant leaving out a lot of key ― and extremely popular — proposals, like instituting the nation’s first paid family and medical leave program, or lowering pharmaceutical drug prices.

That said, there’s still a lot of policy packed into this proposal. The proposal’s biggest investments are in climate policies ($555 billion), child care and universal pre-kindergarten ($400 billion) and a temporary extension of the expanded child tax credit ($200 billion), which has already hey dude shoes gone a long way toward cutting down child poverty in the United States. It increases taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Biden spent Thursday morning on Capitol Hill trying to convince Democrats to support this compromise. But nothing is for certain; a lot of lawmakers saw their policy priorities cut down, or even cut out all together, because of Manchin and Sinema.

“I need you to help me,” Biden told House Democrats Thursday. “I need your votes.”

Here’s what the White House negotiated.

Democrats appear to be following through on their pledge to make pre-kindergarten universally available across the country. The policy is proposed to remain in place for six years, which is a long time compared to some other stuff in the bill.

It’s set up as a federal-state partnership; states submit plans to set up free pre-K systems and, for the first three years, the federal government foots the bill. After three years, the states have to cover 40% of the costs.

The White House summary of the Build Back Better framework says it would expand access to “free high-quality preschool for more than 6 million children.”

Child Care Assistance

The deal includes the largest-ever investment in child care, through a program that would limit expenses for most families to 7% of household income and offer free access to many lower-income Americans.

In some ways, this plan is set up similarly to the pre-K proposal, but it is financed differently and has more restrictions. Most parents would have to prove eligibility through either employment, education status or health, among other categories, in order to get these child care subsidies. How much parents pay into child care is also on a sliding scale depending on income, and capped to those that make up to 250% of their state’s median income.

For a family of four in Alabama, that hoka shoes works out to about $210,000 a year. For a family of four in Massachusetts, it would be about $340,000. In other words, it would cover the vast majority of families, leaving out only those in the highest income brackets.

The program also includes mechanisms to improve the quality of child care, primarily by raising the wages of care workers. The program requires states to opt in to the program, and some might not. But even with only partial participation, millions of working parents would get significant, much-needed help with child care.

President Joe Biden talks to students during a visit to a pre-K classroom at East End Elementary School in North Plainfield, New Jersey, to promote his Build Back Better agenda on Oct. 25, 2021. (Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden talks to students during a visit to a pre-K classroom at East End Elementary School in North Plainfield, New Jersey, to promote his Build Back Better agenda on Oct. 25, 2021. 

Extension Of The Child Tax Credit

Democrats would continue the monthly child allowance payments of up to $300 per child for one year, with no new restrictions on access for people with low incomes.

But it’s not clear if the new proposal would exclude households with higher incomes. Democrats had originally wanted to extend the benefits through 2025, but recent opposition to the program from Manchin forced Biden to agree to just a one-year extension.

Clean Energy And Climate Investments

Biden initially proposed $500 billion in climate spending in March. But the White House’s deal has actually proposed $555 billion for clean energy and climate investments.

That includes about $320 billion for tax credits for companies that hey dude buy and build solar, wind and nuclear power, and for drivers who purchase electric vehicles. The program would last 10 years ― twice as long as previous clean energy tax credits. Another $105 billion would go to investments to fortify the country against extreme weather, clean up disease-causing chemicals in historically polluted communities, and set up a Civilian Climate Corps modeled on the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, which planted billions of trees and provided jobs during the Great Depression.

The administration said it won $110 billion in targeted incentives to boost domestic manufacturing of clean energy products and baseline industrial goods such as cement and steel, which have struggled to compete with cheaper and often more polluting rivals overseas. The budget includes $20 billion for the government itself to buy more green technologies, including small-modular nuclear reactors, which could have a knock-on effect of spurring on technologies that have had trouble finding private buyers.

The 6 megawatt Stanton Solar Farm outside of Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)
The 6 megawatt Stanton Solar Farm outside of Orlando, Florida.

Taxes On The Wealthy

Democrats are still raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to pay for the legislation ― just not in the ways they originally anticipated, and not as much as they originally anticipated. A planned hike in the corporate tax rate, which Republicans slashed from 35% to just 21% during the administration of Donald Trump, isn’t happening because of opposition from Sinema. Instead, Democrats are backing a corporate minimum tax, designed to limit the use of tax deductions and credits by large corporations.

The outline also omits a new proposal to tax the unrealized capital gains on stocks and other assets owned by billionaires, after many Democrats complained about a tricky implementation.

Instead, Democrats would go for a “surcharge” on the richest 0.02% of households, plus a 1% tax on corporate stock buybacks, which surged as a result of the 2017 Republican tax cut and often do little but enrich executives.

A huge chunk of tax revenue would come not from new taxes, but instead from giving the IRS tens of billions in new funding to enforce existing law and close the “tax gap,” the difference between what people owe and what they voluntarily pay. Most of the gap results from business income earned by wealthy households.

The White House says this collection of tax hikes means the bill would be fully paid for and won’t add to the deficit, but the Congressional Budget Office may disagree.

Affordable Housing

At one point, Democrats feared housing provisions could get cut from the legislation entirely. And while funding for housing did decline from the $327 billion Biden originally requested, more than $150 billion would still go to helping the poorest families afford homes and rent.

The White House says this would pay for the construction or rehabilitation of more than 1 million homes, expand the Section 8 voucher program and would provide financial incentives for state and local governments to change zoning laws to encourage new housing construction.

Care Services For The Elderly And People With Disabilities

The bill would include an unprecedented investment in what’s known as home- and community-based services, or HCBS. These are programs for elderly and disabled Americans that allow them to live outside of large institutions, frequently in their own homes, by offering them help with some of the functions of everyday life.

The services can include everything from home care aides to help with cooking and hygiene, to employment programs that help people with disabilities find and keep jobs. Advocates for the initiative had initially proposed an investment of $400 billion over 10 years. The provision in the bill is just $150 billion. That would still represent the single-biggest increase in these sorts of programs, according to experts.

As with the child care proposal, a major goal of the initiative is to raise the wages of caregivers, whose notoriously low pay leaves many in poverty ― and, especially following the pandemic, has created shortages. And as with the child care proposal, a major caveat is that it requires states to participate. Some may not.

An activist is seen during the Care Cant Wait rally with the Service Employees International Union at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Tom Williams via Getty Images)
An activist is seen during the Care Cant Wait rally with the Service Employees International Union at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, Pennsylvania. 

Health Care Coverage Expansions

The bill takes two significant, if time-limited, steps toward universal coverage ― in both cases by building on the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.”

First, it takes some temporary increases in private insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act and extends them through 2025. This increases, in place because of the pandemic relief act in the spring, reduce premiums (and allow access to more generous coverage) for millions, including some who were not eligible for assistance before.

Second, the bill offers an insurance option to low-income people in states dr martens boots where Republican officials have declined to expand Medicaid eligibility, as the Affordable Care Act originally envisioned. It would do so by allowing these people to get effectively free coverage through HealthCare.gov.

If these steps take effect, nearly all American citizens would have access to insurance, experts have said.

The bill also adds a hearing benefit to Medicare, but not vision and dental. The latter, in particular, had been a major goal for progressives, citing the large number of seniors who can’t afford and don’t get dental care now.

Prescription Drug Pricing Reform

The most conspicuously missing piece on the White House framework is a proposal to make prescription drugs more affordable. There’s no proposal at all, despite months of trying to reach an agreement on a plan that would give the federal government some regulatory power over drug prices, just like the governments of other economically advanced countries have.

The hope was to reduce drug prices mainly in two ways: by giving the government power to negotiate prices directly with manufacturers, and by limiting how much the companies could raise prices every year. The proposal also envisioned new investments in basic scientific research, to promote the development of breakthrough cures, and to redesign the drug benefit in Medicare so that it offered seniors more coverage.

It would be a big deal as politics. Democrats have been promising action on drugs since the early 2000s. And it would be a big deal as policy. Because of America’s high drug prices, drug costs are an extra burden for employers and taxpayers, as well as a real hardship for millions, especially elderly Americans whose health problems require multiple medications.

The idea of regulating drug prices is extremely popular, even among conservative voters. And it has support of nearly the entire Democratic caucus, including relatively conservative members in swing districts. But a small handful of Democrats with ties to ― and campaign support from ― the drug industry have objected to more aggressive schemes, citing concerns that limiting drug company revenue would hurt innovation.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was a major opponent of Democrats' proposed prescription drug price reforms. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) (Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images)
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was a major opponent of Democrats’ proposed prescription drug price reforms.

Biden and Democratic leaders hoped to broker some kind of compromise, by, for example, limiting the number of drugs subject to negotiation. The Democratic holdouts, including Rep. Scott Peters of California and Sinema of Arizona, wanted a version so limited that supporters felt it would do little good.

Champions of aggressive regulation, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), on Thursday vowed to keep fighting to get a drug package into the final legislation.

So there’s still a chance this could come back in some form. Maybe.

Paid Leave

Biden originally proposed giving workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. The mandate would ensure that people could take time off for a new child, recovery from an illness, caring for a seriously ill family member or issues arising from a loved one’s military deployment.

But thanks to Manchin, the United States will continue to be the only industrialized nation with no universal paid leave mandate. Manchin was concerned about the cost, as well as the potential for fraud. Democrats tried to come up with a compromise ― shortening the length to four weeks, and eliminating sick leave, but they failed to convince the senator.

Just 23% of private sector workers currently have access to paid family leave provided by their employer and 42% have access to medical leave.

Big Action On Climate Change

The regulatory program meant to serve as the centerpiece of Biden’s climate strategy was eliminated. The proposed Clean Electricity Performance Program would have given the Department of Energy $150 billion to pay utilities who increase their output of zero-carbon power by 4% each year ― and fine those that failed to hit that target. It was projected by independent modelers to get the U.S. one-third of the way to its goal of cutting emissions in half by the end of this decade.

Democrats managed to redistribute that funding to other programs, delivering a much bigger tax credit suite than previously planned. And the administration has vowed to compensate for the loss of the program by enacting new regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency, restoring the federal government’s stick.

A new analysis by the Rhodium Group, a consultancy, found that the mix of funding and executive branch actions could, technically, deliver the 50% emissions cuts Biden promised.

But the implementation of the climate plan comes with big ifs. Regulations will take years to come into force, and will likely face hefty legal challenges. And if Biden, already the oldest person to assume the presidency, is defeated in 2024, the next administration could reverse the regulatory and executive actions almost as easily as the current White House enacted them.

GOP Corporate Tax Cuts Stay Put

Democrats have campaigned since 2018 on reversing Republican tax cuts, especially their reductions to the corporate and top individual rates. But Democrats are offsetting their spending with revenue from novel tax policies while they leave the Republican tax cuts untouched.

The framework is also silent on whether Democrats will restore a property tax deduction used mostly by high income households in populous blue states, though lawmakers said Thursday morning it would be included in the end.

Free Community College

Offering free community college was an issue close to the White House, since First Lady Jill Biden has taught at community colleges for the past 30 years. It would give everyone access to higher education, regardless of ability to pay.

But this proposal was quickly cut as it became clear that the overall price tag would have to shrink. Lobbyists for four-year colleges also opposed the proposal because they were worried it would hurt their bottom line. They argued that states would redirect money away from them, or students would opt to attend community college instead of a four-year institution.

Biden says U.S. will ‘own the future’ with Build Back Better, but disagreements among Democrats remain, imperiling plan

WASHINGTON — Cleaner sources of energy, harvested by machinery made in the United States. Early childhood education subsidized by the federal government. Cheaper hearing aids and expanded health care coverage. A million units of affordable housing.

Those are just some of the “truly consequential” changes Americans will see if President Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better agenda survives the meat grinder of Capitol Hill, he said on Thursday.

“We will own the future,” Biden said, reprising the theme of international competition that he has frequently deployed. That competition, he has said, is not only with China but also with authoritarian regimes like Russia.

Congress is also considering a $1.2 trillion brooks shoes traditional infrastructure package meant to address badly needed road repairs and other long-standing concerns, like clean drinking water and access to high-speed internet. That bill easily passed the Senate over the summer with 19 Republican votes but has stalled in the House due to progressives’ insistence that a budget framework be agreed to first.

Thursday afternoon saw the release of the 1,684-page Build Back Better bill, signaling movement — however halting — toward a vote. “For those who said, ‘I want to see text,’ the text is there for you to review, for you to complain about, for you to add to or subtract from,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference. “Whatever it is and we’ll see what consensus emerges from that, but we’re really very much on a path.”

President Biden speaks at a podium in the East Room of the White House.
President Biden at the White House on Thursday.

Yet progressives on Capitol Hill expressed dismay at the removal of priorities they had hoped would make it into the final Build Back Better bill. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., for example, said it was “disappointing” to see paid family leave fall out of the package. (Pelosi said at her press conference that she was “still fighting for paid leave.”)

The slimming down comes courtesy of moderates in the Democratic caucus, particularly Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who balked at the price tag of the original $3.5 trillion budget proposal and demanded cuts to various programs within it. clarks shoes uk Their resistance has forced Democrats to make difficult choices about priorities like lowering drug prices, another casualty of recent negotiations, and free community college, which was also left out.

With margins in both the House and Senate exceptionally narrow, the White House has to be attuned to any grievance significant enough to scuttle the complex dealmaking intended to ensure the passage of both the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the $1.75 trillion domestic agenda.

Such grievances remain legion. “I’ve been clear from the beginning: no SALT, no deal,” tweeted Rep. Mikie Sherrill, referring to the state and local tax deductions beloved by many residents of high-tax states like New Jersey, which she represents. Those deductions were capped by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. At the present, Democratic leaders are reportedly working on a way to lift the cap.

The intensity of ongoing negotiations reflects the uncertainty of the moment and the precariousness of the coalition Biden has tried to build.

“Looks like the votes just aren’t there for Build Back Better,” a staffer for a progressive member of the House told Yahoo News on Thursday afternoon. That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., leader of the progressive caucus in the House. In trying to ensure that liberals’ priorities remain at the fore, she has sometimes frustrated a White House that has routinely argued that something is better than nothing.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., surrounded by reporters on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday. 

In keeping with that argument, the president outlined on Thursday what he said were the consequences of failure. “We risk losing our edge as a nation,” he warned, speaking as Vice President Kamala Harris stood behind him. Shortly after his address, Biden boarded the presidential helicopter, Marine One, en route to Joint Base Andrews. He will travel from there first to Rome, where he will meet with Pope Francis and attend a meeting of the 20 most significant economic powers in the world. Then he heads to Glasgow, Scotland, for an international climate change summit.

Although earlier hopes to salomon boots have the spending plan finalized ahead of his departure proved unrealistic, Biden left Washington on Thursday afternoon optimistic that despite progressive frustrations, a deal was in the works to enact what would be the most massive federal spending program since the Great Society programs of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Yet House Democratic leaders officially canceled the plan to vote on the infrastructure bill on Thursday, the latest blow to the party’s, and the president’s, ambitious plans, ABC News first reported.

Despite the delay, the White House continues to believe that even if progressives lament what could have been if not for the cuts that moderates successfully forced, they will not walk away from an opportunity they are unlikely to see again, especially if Republicans retake either chamber of Congress next year.

“This is a fundamental game changer for families — and our economy,” the president said in White House remarks meant both for a public that remains unclear about the scope of the enormous spending bill and a Congress divided along partisan lines about whether to allow for such spending. (Biden has said that revenue would be raised with higher taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations.)

President Biden salutes and first lady Jill Biden waves before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Rome to attend the G-20 meeting.
President Biden returns a salute as he and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One for a trip to Rome on Thursday to attend the G-20 meeting. 

Alluding to the reporters gathered before him in the White House on Thursday, the president noted that many of them were working mothers — and that he had been a working father, raising two boys, after his first wife and infant daughter were killed in a 1972 car accident. Most of the jobs in Build Back Better would be sperry shoes in fields like early childhood education and home health care, which are dominated by women. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, conversely, is estimated to heavily favor male-dominated fields like construction.

In a significant victory, progressives ensured that expanded child tax credits would remain part of Build Back Better. So would the $555 billion devoted to climate change.

“We are once again going to be the innovators,” Biden said, envisioning how wind turbines and solar panels would be made in the United States, not rival nations like China.

Whether all that is enough to satisfy progressives while keeping centrists from fleeing will become apparent in the coming days. If progressives decide to withhold support for the infrastructure bill, Senate moderates would likely retaliate by sinking Build Back Better, thus leading to a collapse of Biden’s entire domestic spending agenda.

“No one got everything they wanted,” Biden said back at the White House, as negotiations furiously continued on Capitol Hill. The president will watch those negotiations from Europe.

Amazon workers in Staten Island, N.Y., file for union election

Amazon workers at a cluster of warehouses in Staten Island filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Brooklyn on Monday requesting an election to form a union.

The effort, called the Amazon Labor Union, is headed up by Chris Smalls, a clarks shoes uk former Amazon employee who was fired in March 2020 after organizing a protest over the lack of protective gear and hazard pay for warehouse workers at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. It marks the latest in a series of attempts by a small but vocal portion of Amazon’s 950,000 U.S. employees to organize to demand better working conditions.

“We want to let the company know that we are a real threat,” Smalls said, speaking on behalf of workers who support the efforts. “The time is now.”

Image: Organizer and former Amazon worker Chris Smalls speaks outside the NLRB office before filing paperwork to unionize workers, in Brooklyn, New York (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)
Image: Organizer and former Amazon worker Chris Smalls speaks outside the NLRB office before filing paperwork to unionize workers, in Brooklyn, New York 

Smalls and a few Amazon workers submitted the petition in person to the NLRB’s regional office 29 in downtown Brooklyn at about 2 p.m. Monday (capacity inside the office limited the number of people allowed to enter). Some dressed in costumes resembling the tracksuits worn by characters in hit show “Money Heist.”

Smalls and other organizers assembled a committee and spent the last six months gathering signed union authorization cards from more than 2,000 workers at four warehouses in Staten Island, including the facility Amazon refers to as JFK8, hey dude shoes where Smalls worked for five years before he was fired, as well as three other nearby adjacent facilities. They need at least 30 percent of workers across the four warehouses to sign authorization cards to be eligible for an NLRB election, and a simple majority to win.

The petition for an election comes amid “Striketober,” as a wave of workers across the country take to picket lines to protest stagnant wages and unsafe labor conditions exacerbated by the pandemic. There have been 184 strikes this year, including more than 10,000 John Deere employees who went on strike this month and Kellogg’s factory workers.

The organizers hope that their independent union will have more success than previous attempts to unionize by teaming up with established union shops, like in Bessemer, Alabama, where workers voted against forming a union with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in April.

“We have to make sure every move is calculated,” Smalls said.

“The established unions have expertise, money and resources. But Amazon is a different animal,” he said. “There is no playbook for unionizing Amazon, you just have to earn the trust of workers. It’s really just us on the ground having face-to-face conversations and building relationships.”

Amazon workers mock Jeff Bezos. (Ben Kesslen / NBC News)
Amazon workers mock Jeff Bezos. 

Since April, Smalls and other organizers have set up a tent outside the JFK8 warehouse, where they have been hosting barbecues and collecting signatures from workers expressing their support for the union effort. He described the effort as 24/7, rain or shine.

Derrick Palmer, a fellow organizer who works at JFK8, said they were inspired by the union drive in Bessemer and started collecting signatures as soon as that effort failed. He said they wanted to build on that momentum.

“We felt that it was super important that we started right when they took the loss,” he said, “Taking a defeat like that, we wanted to pick up where they left off.”

Palmer said that he and other organizers have already been contacted by workers at facilities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Texas and Florida who have expressed an interest in joining the Amazon Labor Union.

Seth Goldstein, a senior business representative hoka shoes with the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153 in New York, who is also a lawyer, is helping the newfound Amazon Labor Union pro bono, said that Palmer and Smalls have an uphill battle against Amazon.

“No one is going in there starry-eyed thinking that this is going to be anything other than the nastiest campaign in labor management history,” he said.

Labor experts said that by trying to form an independent union, organizers would be able to avoid some of Amazon’s anti-union messaging, which has in the past focused on maligning the established union shop as not representing the interests of workers.

At the rally Monday outside the NLRB office, Monica Moorehead, a retired schoolteacher from New Jersey, joined the group in solidarity.

“Amazon workers are on the front line of the struggle” said Moorehead, who was there with members of the Workers World Party, adding that if Amazon workers can unionize, “it will create a tidal wave.”

Around two dozen people there to support the workers held signs encouraging Amazon to recognize the union, including ones that said “Fight Racism and Union Busting.”

“We’re skeptical that a sufficient number of legitimate employee signatures has been secured to warrant an election. If there is an election, we want the voice of our employees to be heard and look forward to it. Our focus remains on listening directly to our employees and continuously improving on their behalf,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said.

Previously, on a website Amazon set up this year to persuade workers in Alabama to vote against unionization, the company wrote: “We’ve got you covered with great hourly rates, best-in-class healthcare benefits, and career advancement. There’s so much MORE you can do for your career and your family without paying dues.”

Ahead of the Bessemer, Alabama, union election, Amazon’s worldwide head of communications Drew Herdener said that the involvement of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union marked an attempt by union head Stuart Appelbaum “to save his long declining union.”

A RWDSU spokesperson said Amazone executives used personal attacks to deceive workers in Alabama. “Their vehemently anti-union stance knows no bounds, legal, moral or otherwise,” Chelsea Connor said.

“They won’t have the resources and experience of a seasoned national union,” said Rebecca Givan, an associate professor of management and labor relations at Rutgers University. “But they also avoid a lot of the anti-union attacks that come from Amazon and get to work together to shape their own priorities and tactics.”

Inside Amazon’s Worst Human Resources Problem

Tara Jones, an Amazon warehouse worker, at her home in Moore, Okla., on July 25, 2021. (Joseph Rushmore/The New York Times)

A year ago, Tara Jones, an Amazon warehouse worker in Oklahoma, cradled her newborn, glanced over her pay stub on her phone and noticed that she had been underpaid by a significant chunk: $90 out of $540.

The mistake kept repeating even after she reported the issue. Jones, who had taken accounting classes at community college, grew so exasperated that she wrote an email to Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder.

“I’m behind on bills, all because the pay team messed up,” she wrote weeks later. “I’m crying as I write this email.”

Unbeknown to Jones, her message to Bezos set off an internal investigation, and a discovery: Jones was far from alone. For at least 1 1/2 years — including during periods of record profit — Amazon had been shortchanging new parents, patients dealing with sperry shoes medical crises and other vulnerable workers on leave, according to a confidential report on the findings. Some of the pay calculations at her facility had been wrong since it opened its doors over a year before. As many as 179 of the companies’ other warehouses had potentially been affected, too.

Amazon is still identifying and repaying workers to this day, according to Kelly Nantel, a company spokesperson.

That error is only one strand in a long-standing knot of problems with Amazon’s system for handling paid and unpaid leaves, according to dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of internal documents obtained by The New York Times. Together, the records and interviews reveal that the issues have been more widespread — affecting the company’s blue-collar and white-collar workers — and more harmful than previously known, amounting to what several company insiders described as one of its gravest human resources problems.

Workers across the country facing medical problems and other life crises have been fired when the attendance software mistakenly marked them as no-shows, according to former and current human resources staff members, some who would speak only anonymously for fear of retribution. Doctors’ notes vanished into black holes in Amazon’s databases. Employees struggled to even reach their case managers, wading through automated phone trees that routed their calls to overwhelmed back-office staff in Costa Rica, India and Las Vegas. And the whole leave system was run on a patchwork of programs that often did not speak to one another.

Some workers who were ready to return found that the system was too backed up to process them, resulting in weeks or months of lost income. Higher-paid corporate employees, who had to navigate the same systems, found that arranging a routine leave could turn into a morass.

In internal correspondence, company administrators warned of “inadequate service levels,” “deficient processes” and systems that are “prone to delay and error.”

The extent of the problem puts in stark relief how Amazon’s workers routinely took a back seat to customers during the company’s meteoric rise to retail dominance. Amazon built cutting-edge package processing facilities to cater to shoppers’ appetite for fast delivery, far outpacing competitors. But the business did not devote enough salomon boots resources and attention to how it served employees, according to many longtime workers.

“A lot of times, because we’ve optimized for the customer experience, we’ve been focused on that,” Bethany Reyes, who was recently put in charge of fixing the leave system, said in an interview. She stressed that the company was working hard to rebalance those priorities.

The company’s treatment of its huge workforce — now more than 1.3 million people and expanding rapidly — faces mounting scrutiny. Labor activists and some lawmakers say that the company does not adequately protect the safety of warehouse employees, and that it unfairly punishes internal critics. This year, workers in Alabama, upset about the company’s minute-by-minute monitoring of their productivity, organized a serious, although ultimately failed, unionization threat against the company.

In June, a Times investigation detailed how badly the leave process jammed during the pandemic, finding that it was one of many employment lapses during the company’s greatest moment of financial success. Since then, Amazon has emphasized a pledge to become “Earth’s best employer.” Andy Jassy, who replaced Bezos as CEO in July, recently singled out the leave system as a place where it can demonstrate its commitment to improve. The process “didn’t work the way we wanted it to work,” he said at an event this month.

In response to the more recent findings on the troubles in its leave program, Amazon elaborated on its efforts to fix the system’s “pain points” and “pay issues,” as Reyes put it in the interview. She called the erroneous terminations “the most dire issue that you could have.” The company is hiring hundreds of employees, streamlining and connecting systems, clarifying its communications and training human resources staff members to be more empathetic.

But many issues persist, causing breakdowns that have proved devastating. This spring, a Tennessee warehouse worker abruptly stopped receiving disability payments, leaving his family struggling to pay for food, transportation or medical care.

“Not a word that there had ever been a problem,” said James Watts, 54, who worked at Amazon in Chattanooga for six years before repeated heart attacks and strokes forced him to go on disability leave. The sudden loss of his benefits caused a cascade of calamities: Because he was without pay for two weeks, his car was repossessed. To afford food and doctors’ bills, Watts and his wife sold their wedding rings.

“We’re losing everything,” he said.

The benefits restarted without explanation several months later, but the couple are still struggling to regain their footing. Nantel said that Amazon regretted Watts’ situation, that the process was too confusing and that it was working to simplify the process of navigating leaves.

As the country’s second largest private employer, Amazon offers a wide array of leaves — paid or unpaid, medical or personal, legally mandated or not. While Amazon used to outsource the management of its leave programs, brooks shoes it brought the effort in-house when providers could not keep up with its growth. It is now one of the largest leave administrators in the country.

Employees apply for leaves online, on an internal app, or wade through automated phone trees. The technology that Amazon uses to manage leaves is a patchwork of software from a variety of companies — including Salesforce, Oracle and Kronos — that do not connect seamlessly.

That complexity forces human resource employees to input many approved leaves, an effort that last fall alone required 67 full-time employees, an internal document shows. Reyes said a permanent bridge between the programs is scheduled to be completed in March, with incremental improvements in the meantime.

Current and former employees involved in administering leaves say that the company’s answer has often been to push them so hard that some required leaves themselves. Last year, in an email sent out on a Friday about a Sunday deadline, a corporate manager of the leave system scolded his teams to do more.

“You all know what needs to be accomplished and by when,” he wrote. “No exceptions!”

Reyes said that employee burnout was a huge concern of hers as she was taking on her new role and that she was trying to address it in several ways.

Amazon’s own teams have not always been well-versed in the system, internal documents show. An external assessment last fall found that the back-office staff members who talk with employees “do not understand” the process for taking leaves and regularly gave incorrect information to workers. In one audited call, which dragged on for 29 minutes, the phone agent told a worker that he was too new to be eligible for short-term disability leave, when in fact workers are eligible from their first day.

Reyes said that with improved training, her teams could now resolve more than nine out of 10 issues on the first call.

In some cases, Amazon has been accused of violating the law. In 2017, Leslie Tullis, who managed a subscription product for children, faced a mounting domestic violence crisis and requested an unpaid leave that employers must offer under Washington state law to protect victims. Once approved, Tullis would be allowed to work intermittently; she could be absent from work as much as necessary, and with little notice; and she would be protected against retaliation.

Amazon granted the leave, but the company did not seem to understand what it had said yes to. It had no policy that corresponded to the law of the company’s home state, court documents show. Tullis said she spent as many as eight hours a week dealing with the company to manage her leave. At one point, she was moving regularly to keep her children safe. Despite the legal protections, her bosses would become visibly frustrated when she was behind on work, “like I was betraying them every day,” she said.

In June 2019, after she took two days of leave to deal with the latest emergency in a continuing family crisis just before a performance plan was due, she was fired for missing the deadline by two days. The Washington state attorney general’s office took up her case, calling Amazon’s leave reporting system “a failure” and arguing that the company retaliated in violation of the state law.

Amazon is fighting the case. Nantel said the company gave Tullis flexibility and support, as well as the equivalent of about seven months of unpaid leave over two years. She said Tullis was fired not in retaliation but because her performance faltered while she was not on leave.

Just before she was dismissed, she emailed her manager, stunned that the deadline was not pushed back to accommodate the exact type of crisis the leave law was intended to protect. “Domestic violence is a series of emergencies,” Tullis wrote in an email, “and the victims don’t get to pick when it ends.”

Democrats’ billionaire tax would heavily target 10 wealthiest Americans, but alternative plan is emerging

Democrats’ billionaire tax would heavily target 10 wealthiest Americans, but alternative plan is emerging

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats this week are preparing to propose a new tax increase that would raise billions of dollars from a handful of of the richest Americans, a policy so narrow in scope that the number of people it would affect is likely unprecedented in American history.

But criticisms of the proposal have emerged – including from at least one leading Democrat – and party leadership is still considering more traditional approaches to taxing the rich.

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Monday he will “in nike outlet a matter of days” release a tax on billionaires that economists and tax experts project could raise more than half of its revenue from just 10 people, including Tesla founder Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. (Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.) Estimates vary widely on exactly much money the plan would bring into federal coffers, in part because no such idea has ever been put into effect.

While Democrats have increasingly eyed the plan as a way to win the support of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who has expressed opposition to increasing the corporate tax rate, some legal scholars have warned it could get struck down by the Supreme Court. And while negotiations are rapidly evolving, Democrats are considering swapping the billionaire tax for a separate 3% “surtax” on millionaires earning more than $5 million per year, according to two people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect internal negotiations. Details remain very much in flux.

The competing tax plans show the difficult trade-offs Democrats must weigh as they try to come to agreement on new sources of revenue to pay for Biden’s climate and social spending plan – which could cost as much as $1.75 trillion over 10 years – by the end of this week.

The surtax on multimillionaires – originally pitched in House Democrats’ tax plan from September to pay for President Biden’s economic package – may prove easier to administer and less vulnerable to legal challenge. But the billionaire tax would fall on far fewer people and, if successfully implemented, could do substantially more to reverse the massive concentration of wealth that Democrats have for years called reflective of a dangerous increase in U.S. inequality.

“If there’s a sliver of good news, it’s that there may be at least enough political cohesion to target a class that clearly has a great deal of resources way in excess of what it needs,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economist at the New School. “When you see billionaires being able to go space and back for hobby and fun – in a society worried about floods on a periodic basis – that’s a problem.”

Billionaires have been able to pay very low effective tax rates in part because the value of their company stock holdings is not subject to capital gains taxes until skechers outlet they are sold. Wyden’s plan would amount to a major shift in the U.S. tax code by leveling a 23.8% tax on the increase in stock value – or “unrealized capital gain” – even before those assets are sold.

As a result, the plan would fall primarily on billionaires who have held onto their publicly-traded stock holdings – an easily measured and publicly identifiable criteria. Their private business holdings, such as Musk’s SpaceX or Bezos’ Blue Origin, would likely not fall under the tax.

Figures for how much the tax would raise over 10 years range from between $250 billion and upward of $500 billion. But roughly half of its potential new revenue would likely be paid by just the 10 wealthiest Americans, including Musk, Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffett, according to an estimate by Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California. Several other tax experts supported his broad conclusions.

According to Zucman’s analysis, Musk would pay as much as $50 billion under the tax over its first five years, while Bezos could pay as much as $44 billion, according to economists’ estimates.

Musk weighed in on the proposal Monday evening, suggesting on Twitter that it could mark the beginning of a much more aggressive taxation campaign by Democrats. “Eventually they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you,” he wrote.

He also wrote: “Who is best at capital allocation – government or entrepreneurs – is indeed what it comes down to. The tricksters will conflate capital allocation with consumption.”

Collectively, the wealthiest 10 Americans own roughly $1.3 trillion, and the Wyden plan would require them to pay a combined $276 billion in taxes. These taxes would essentially fall on billionaires’ lifetime earnings. But, once paid, bluetooth headphones the billionaires would only pay further taxes on additional increases in unrealized stock gains. That distinguishes the Wyden plan from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., wealth tax, which would indefinitely reduce billionaire wealth every year.

Democrats have increasingly viewed the billionaire tax as a way to pay for the economic package in part because of the tremendous increase in wealth at the very top of the income distribution since the beginning of the pandemic. The top five billionaires saw their wealth increase 82% since the pandemic began, adding $370 billion since the S&P 500′s pre-pandemic peak in February 2020, according to calculations based on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

These calculations are based on wealth as of Sunday, Oct. 24, but revenue estimates will evolve along with billionaire’s wealth. On Monday alone, the total wealth held by Musk skyrocketed by as much as $36 billion due to a new order of Teslas from the rental company Hertz.

The new law would see Musk and his peers paying orders of magnitude more than they had before. A June report from the nonprofit news organization ProPublica found Buffett paid $23.7 million in taxes from 2014 to 2018. He would pay about a thousand times that number under the new proposal. Musk paid $455 million over that time, the report found, or about a hundred times less than he’d pay under the new proposal. Bezos’ new tax bill would be about 10 times what he paid in the earlier five-year period.

“It is being written so that when nurses and firefighters pay taxes with every paycheck, billionaires, who have figured out how to not pay taxes because they don’t take a wage, they’re going to have to pay their fair share,” Wyden told reporters on Monday night.

But questions abound about implementing the billionaire tax. Steve Rosenthal, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center think tank, said it would be far simpler to enact Biden’s initial plan to tax capital gains when they are inherited – a proposal abandoned due to opposition from centrist Democrats – than create a new part of the tax code for billionaires.

Rosenthal also raised the question of how to ensure billionaires do not simply evade the tax by moving their publicly-held stock into more opaque forms of assets, such as private companies. Wyden’s plan proposes an interest penalty on privately-held assets, but such an idea is untested.

“While only a few taxpayers would pay the new tax, many more would need to value all their assets annually, including their privately-held businesses,” Rosenthal wrote in a blog critiquing the idea. “Taxpayers close to the line might move in and out of the new tax regime frequently. How would the IRS determine whether all billionaires filed properly?”

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., has also expressed reservations about the billionaire tax idea. Neal said House Democrats previously had looked at the idea and concluded then – as now – that “it will be a challenge.” Neal raised a number of areas to address, including what the government would do when billionaires had bad years and had taxes owed to them.

“I like the politics of it, yeah, I think it’s sensible,” he said. “I think the implementation of the plan may be a bit more challenging.”

Other tax experts say a conservative-dominated Supreme Court would be unlikely to uphold the new tax. The Constitutionality of a tax on wealth remains unclear, and it is unclear if the administration could successfully convince the court that the measure is instead an income tax – which would be permissible under the Sixteenth Amendment.

“If I were a justice, I would uphold it . . . But I’m not. Six Republican-appointed judges on the Supreme Court are,” said Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago. “There are lots of constitutional ways to do this, and we’ve picked the one Constitutionally problematic option.”

Zucman rejected the argument that the tax could prove complicated to implement. He said it “would be the most progressive tax in history,” noting the next closest – the estate tax – raises roughly $20 billion a year, possibly as little as 5% of the Wyden plan.

“For these guys, the truth is it’s so easy to enforce the tax because it’s so obvious what they own,” Zucman said.