There may not be nearly enough strings attached to Congressional bailouts, but never underestimate the power of the public.
It took just two weeks for the government to run out of funds for its $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, meant to help small businesses struggling with the coronavirus shutdown. Where did that money go?  Over the last several days, stories have trickled out about the supposedly small businesses – chains like Ruth’s Chris steakhouse and burger giant Shake Shack – sweeping up the funding, leaving those who actually need it out to dry.

But the public outcry was swift and fierce. There may not be nearly enough strings attached to Congressional bailouts, but never underestimate the power of the public. After a thorough roasting, Shake Shack announced it would return its $10 million in funds.

Sometimes shame works. Much more this week on the shameful pandemic profiteers of all varieties, as well as the people who should be getting federal help instead.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Essential Workers Have Always Been Essential
Where do we get our food? Who stocks our local store shelves? Who is considered an essential worker in the age of the coronavirus? It may be elderly shop owners stacking cans of soup, packing bottles of juice and soft drinks into coolers, and making sure we have bread, milk, and eggs. It might be people with underlying health conditions who are reaching out to suppliers to ensure that shelves are fully stocked. It is immigrants putting their lives at risk to serve their community. We rely on people like Monica Grover’s parents, owners of a small grocery store in Maryland. They need our support in return. Monica has more for us this week.
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Ocean Spray! Endless Buffets! Infectious Disease!
Arnold Donald, the CEO of the world’s largest cruise line, thinks his industry is getting a bad coronavirus rap. COVID-19 hotspots on seven of his now shut-down Carnival cruise ships have left 39 dead. But Donald has been busy insisting that “a cruise ship is not a riskier environment.” His vessels, says Donald, more resemble Central Park: “There’s a lot of natural social distancing.” Public health experts disagree. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report has concluded that a “closed environment, contact between travelers from many countries, and crew transfers between ships” makes ocean merriment like Carnival’s a predictable setting for “outbreaks of infectious diseases.” Donald himself is predicting that Carnival will come back bigger than ever, starting at the end of June, since “people love cruising.” For CEOs, cruising certainly does have its rewards. Donald took home $11.1 million last year, 723 times the take-home of Carnival’s typical employee. His CEO predecessor, Trump intimate Micky Arison, is currently sitting on an $8.1-billion personal fortune.


Pramila Jayapal
Next Relief Bill Must Ban Predatory Interest Rates
Predatory lenders profit off desperation. So with millions of Americans losing their jobs and falling ill, short-term loan sharks stand to reap huge windfalls. On a typical payday loan, the average interest rate is a whopping 391 percent. On car title loans, the average rate runs around 300 percent. Americans for Financial Reform is demanding a nationwide cap on interest rates. Ideally, the cap would be permanent, but at a minimum, it would last for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. They point out that interest rates on payday and car title loans for active military members are already capped at 36 percent. Why shouldn’t all Americans get this protection? Price-gouging is bad enough in normal times. During a pandemic, it’s unconscionable.
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Hey, You Guys at the Fed, Fix the Plumbing Already!
How are Americans recovering financially from the coronavirus shock? Slowly. Very slowly. The widely heralded $1,200 checks for low- and moderate-income American adults are only now beginning to arrive, weeks after Congress gave the green light. And millions of eligible Americans may not see any help for months. Why all the delay? One prime reason: The U.S. financial industry has a plumbing system designed to make rich people richer. We’re not talking sinks and water fountains here. We’re talking about the financial plumbing that moves money from one account to another. co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on 

Jim Hightower, Stop the Pandemic Profiteers. It’s time for indignant citizens today to confront a new breed of shameful greed merchants.

Elsewhere on the Web

Sonia Faleiro, What the world can learn from Kerala about how to fight covid-19, MIT Technology Review. India's most egalitarian state builds coronavirus-fighting success on social solidarity.

Kathryn McKinley, How the rich reacted to the bubonic plague has eerie similarities to today’s pandemic, Considerable. This medievalist has seen our story before.

Dylan Grundman and Meg Wiehe, State Options to Shore up Revenues and Improve Tax Codes amid Pandemic, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. State policy responses must demand the rich and the corporations they run pay their fair tax share.

Layla Jones, Stimulus could heighten racial economic inequality, historians warn, BillyPenn. Like the New Deal and G.I. Bill, the latest federal attempt to juice the economy is playing out unevenly.

Morris Pearl and William Lazonick, With working Americans' survival at stake, the US is bailing out the richest, Guardian. Our country cannot allow a small number of executives and shareholders to profit from taxpayer funds that we have injected into these corporations for reasons of pure emergency.

Dan Price, This is how your company’s CEO should be leading you through the coronavirus crisis, MarketWatch. We live in a world that undervalues the majority of society for the benefit of very few people. 

Jim Lardner, Mapping Corruption: The Interactive Exhibit, American Prospect. In contemporary Washington, D.C., corruption pays richly for the already rich. This amazing new graphic anchors a new web resource that details just who's grabbing and what they're getting.

Simon Kuper, This economist has a radical plan to solve wealth inequality, Wired. French economist Thomas Piketty says inequality remains a political choice. The solution? Wealth taxes well beyond anything proposed by Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.


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