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Biden’s Speech Calls for U.S. to Take On China and Russia

He clearly regards Mr. Xi as a worthy competitor who will force America to up its game — thus the focus in his speech on education, speedier, universal internet access, and on partnerships with industry in new technologies. Mr. Biden has made clear to his aides, in lengthy Situation Room sessions on China strategy, that his administration must finally focus the country on the existential threat of a world in which China dominates in trade and technology, and controls the flow of electrons — and the ideas they carry.

In contrast, he regards Mr. Putin’s Russia as a declining power whose only real capability is to act as a disrupter — one that seeks to split NATO, undermine democracy and poke holes in the computer and communications networks that the United States, and the rest of the world, depend upon. That came through in the speech. While he did not repeat his reference to Mr. Putin as a “killer,” he focused on the recent sanctions. “He understands we will respond,” he said, while opening the door to new agreements on arms control and climate.

But making this twin strategy of competition and containment work, Mr. Biden acknowledged at one point, depended on persuading Americans to make the necessary investments, and convincing allies that the United States would have their backs.

The pandemic response, he suggested, paved the way. One hundred days ago it would have been hard to imagine any country turning to the United States for coronavirus aid; now India has, and the pressure on Mr. Biden is how fast he can deploy vaccines to the rest of the world, at a moment that domestic politics suggests he needs to vaccinate all willing Americans first.

But when the pandemic abates, the divisions in the United States will remain. And those divisions, he knows, will be exploited by Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin to further their argument that America is in terminal decline.

It is still a powerful argument, one that Mr. Biden acknowledged when he described his conversations with nearly 40 world leaders.

“I’ve made it known that America is back,” he said. “And you know what they say? The comment that I hear most of all from them is they say, ‘We see America is back but for how long? But for how long?’”

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Tech Firm Bars Political Discussion at Work: Live Updates

a blog post. “You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit, or wading into it means you’re a target.”

Basecamp’s move echoes a ban on talking politics at Coinbase, which was enacted in September by its chief executive, Brian Armstrong, prompting dozens of employees to leave the company.

The timing of these announcements is probably no accident, following a surge of employee activism and corporate action on social issues. Big companies like Amazon, BlackRock and Google took a stand this month against Republican efforts to enact restrictive election rules in almost every state.

Surveys suggest that a large portion of employees believe that the companies they work for should speak up on social issues. The new policy at Basecamp, which has about 60 employees, is one of the least hedged signals yet that the feeling is not always mutual.

Both bosses framed their new policies as a way to remove distractions and carved out exceptions for issues they consider relevant to their businesses. “If there is a bill introduced around crypto, we may engage,” Mr. Armstrong wrote last year, while one of Basecamp’s co-founders, David Hansson, wrote on Monday that the company might engage on “topics like antitrust, privacy, employee surveillance.”

The moves, in both cases, were met with a mix of admiration and criticism, with supporters saying the policies are good for business and detractors arguing that choosing to abstain from politics is inherently political and probably impossible to enforce.

In addition to discouraging politics talk on work platforms, Basecamp said it would end “paternalistic benefits” such as a fitness reimbursement and education allowances (it plans to give employees an equivalent amount of cash instead), ban committees and stop “lingering or dwelling on past decisions.”

Basecamp’s changes are notable because its founders have long evangelized the company’s worker-friendly culture in books and blog posts.

Mr. Armstrong of Coinbase applauded Basecamp on Twitter, calling it “another mission focused company.” “Who will be next?” he asked.

The City of London, a financial hub, is seeking ways to draw people as a shift toward flexible work keeps some professionals away.
Credit…Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The City of London, the square mile in the center of London that is the heart of Britain’s financial and legal services, once had more than half a million daily commuters bustling through its streets. But the coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new era of working from home that risks leaving the area permanently depleted. The City of London Corporation, its governing body, is looking for ways to revive it.

One way it hopes to use vacant space is to create at least 1,500 new homes by 2030, the corporation said, as part of a five-year plan announced on Tuesday. The district, which has several train stations, has primarily been a commuter destination, with only about 8,000 residents.

The City, as it is called, is particularly vulnerable to the trend of flexible working. It hosts hundreds of large companies that have been keen to offer their employees latitude in how often they work from the office. Last summer, during England’s brief easing of pandemic restrictions, the City’s streets were deserted while the rest of London and other towns boomed with activity.

“Firms have told us that they remain committed to retaining a central London hub, but how they operate will inevitably change to reflect postpandemic trends, such as hybrid and flexible working,” said Catherine McGuinness, the policy chair at the City of London Corporation.

In New York, developers are also working out how to repurpose office buildings in Lower Manhattan into housing.

While the City tries to lure back its usual workers and business visitors, it will also try to become more appealing to workers outside of financial and professional services. It is looking into offering cheaper, long-term rent on office space for creative professionals in empty or infrequently used spaces.

And it hopes to attract more tourists, with events, shopping and cultural activities outside of office hours. “We will explore opportunities to enable and animate the City’s weekend and nighttime offer,” the report said. “Bold programming of major events may include traffic-free Saturdays or Sundays in summer or an all-night celebration.”

Jamie Dimon, the JPMorgan Chase chief executive, has spoken of what he deems as “serious weaknesses” with remote work.
Credit…Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase is opening its offices to all employees in the United States on May 17, subject to a 50 percent occupancy limit, according to an internal memo sent Tuesday obtained by The New York Times.

The bank, which employs more than 240,000 globally, told its office-based employees that the opening comes as the bank prepares itself — and its workers — for a more formal return to office at the start of July. (Employees of retail bank branches have been working on location throughout the pandemic.)

“We are welcoming more of you back next month so that you can get comfortable being back in an office environment,” the bank’s six-member operating committee wrote in the memo. “Understanding this may take some time, we would fully expect by early July, all U.S.-based employees will be back in the office on a consistent rotational schedule, also subject to our current 50 percent occupancy cap.”

Companies have been weighing how, and when, to bring workers back to the office. Microsoft opened its headquarters to employees last month, while still encouraging those who want to to stay at home. IBM created a “reorientation guide” for employees coming back to the office.

“We know that many of you are excited to come back, but we also know that for some, the idea of coming in on a regular basis is a change through which you’ll have to manage,” JPMorgan’s operating committee said in the email.

The finance industry, which places a premium on in-person interaction and training, has been among the most eager to get employees in back in the office. Investment banks have also struggled to keep up morale as record-breaking volumes of work has led some junior analysts to warn of burnout made worse by isolation and the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional lives that comes from working at home.

JPMorgan’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, said in a recent letter to shareholders that there were “serious weaknesses” from remote work, including delayed decision making and a barriers to learning and creativity. He also acknowledged that the pandemic had accelerated trends like hybrid and flexible work policies, such that “working from home will become more permanent in American business.”

The bank continues to move forward with construction of its huge new Manhattan headquarters, which is expected to open in 2024 and house 12,000 to 14,000 employees.

“We are extremely excited about the building’s public spaces, state-of the-art technology, and health and wellness amenities, among many other features,” Mr. Dimon wrote.

In a new filing, Fox said its coverage of Smartmatic was part of its overall reporting on claims made by former President Donald Trump.
Credit…Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

In the months since the election tech company Smartmatic sued Fox News and three of its anchors, the two companies have engaged in a prehearing back-and-forth that continued Monday when Fox filed briefs in support of a previous motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.

In its defamation suit, which was filed in New York State Supreme Court on Feb. 4, Smartmatic accused Fox and the anchors Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro of promoting falsehoods about the company and widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Shortly after the suit was filed, Fox canceled Mr. Dobbs’s program on Fox Business and filed a motion for a dismissal of the suit, arguing that the claims of electoral fraud broadcast on Fox News and Fox Business were newsworthy and handled fairly. Smartmatic replied on April 12, with a brief stating that the three Fox anchors had played along as their guests promoted election-related conspiracy theories.

In its latest volley, Fox asserted that its coverage of Smartmatic was part of its overall reporting on a challenge of the election outcome based on claims made by former President Donald J. Trump.

“Smartmatic asks this court to become the first in history to hold the press liable for reporting allegations made by a sitting president and his lawyers, and to break that barrier in the context of one of the most newsworthy events imaginable: a contested presidential election,” Fox said in its filing on Monday. “This court should decline that First-Amendment-defying request.”

Representatives for Smartmatic declined to comment.

Smartmatic has argued that the Fox hosts knew the on-air statements about the company were not accurate. If a court determines that Smartmatic is a public figure, Smartmatic’s lawyers will have to show that Fox acted with “actual malice” in its treatment of the company.

The Fox briefs filed on Monday argued that Smartmatic, which is seeking $2.7 billion in damages, had not demonstrated that its channels or its anchors acted with malice, showing only that the three Fox hosts had not investigated the claims made on their programs.

The Fox brief said that Smartmatic’s “allegations largely boil down to accusations of mere ‘failure to investigate.’”

It added, “Seeking to compensate for the weakness of its allegations, Smartmatic emphasizes their volume. But a stack of inadequate allegations is still inadequate.”

The briefs filed by Fox on Monday are likely to be the last in its case against Smartmatic before a court considers the matter. A hearing date has not been scheduled. Another election technology company, Dominion Voting Systems, sued Fox for defamation in March.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., then vice president, at a 2015 event calling for a $15 minimum wage in New York.
Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

President Biden plans to sign an executive order on Tuesday raising the minimum wage paid by federal contractors to $15 an hour, the latest in a set of ambitious pro-labor moves at the outset of his administration.

The new minimum is expected to take effect next year and is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of workers, according to a White House document. The current minimum is $10.95 under an order that President Barack Obama signed in 2014. Like that order, the new one will require that the new minimum wage rise with inflation.

White House economists believed the increase would not lead to significant job losses, a finding in line with recent research on the minimum wage, and that it was unlikely to cost taxpayers more money, two administration officials said in a call with reporters. They argued that the higher wage would lead to greater productivity and lower turnover.

The White House also contends that although the number of workers directly affected by the increase is relatively small as a share of the economy, the executive order will indirectly raise wages beyond federal contractors by forcing other employers to bid up pay as they compete for workers.

Several cities have a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, and several states have laws that will raise their minimum wage to at least that level in the coming years. There is so far little evidence on how a $15 minimum wage affects employment in lower-cost areas of such states.

Two years ago, the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, but the legislation has faced long odds in the Senate. Mr. Biden sought to incorporate such a measure in his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package so that it could pass on a simple majority vote, but the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it could not be included.

Mr. Biden’s executive order will also eliminate the so-called tipped minimum wage for federal contractors, which currently allows employers to pay tipped workers $7.65 an hour as long as their tips put them over the regular minimum wage. Under the new minimum, all workers must be paid at least $15 an hour.

The order will technically begin a rule-making process that is expected to conclude by early next year. The wage will be incorporated into new contracts and existing contracts as they are extended.

Traffic in Philadelphia last month. BP reported higher earnings on Tuesday, and said it expected demand for oil would continue to recover from the pandemic.
Credit…Matt Rourke/Associated Press

BP reported a sharply higher profit for the first quarter of 2021 on Tuesday, signaling that after a grim 2020, oil companies’ earnings are recovering along with demand for their products.

BP said that underlying replacement cost profit, the metric most closely watched by analysts, was $2.6 billion, up from $791 million in the period year earlier. The London giant said that the price it received for its oil in the quarter was up more than 20 percent. BP described its trading and marketing of natural gas, where prices also increased, as “exceptionally strong.”

Citing strong economic growing in China and the United States, BP said that it expected the oil market to continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Bernard Looney, the chief executive, has said he wants to use the cash from oil and gas operations to finance a shift toward electric power and other clean energy.

In the first quarter, the plan seemed to work well. The company raked in about $10.9 billion, a sum that included revenue from sales of fossil fuel businesses, among them a stake in a gas field in Oman. Because of divestments, BP’s oil production fell by 22 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

At the same time, BP expanded into the offshore wind business. It entered into a partnership with Equinor, the Norwegian energy company that is developing wind farms off the East Coast of the United States, and is acquiring offshore wind acreage off Britain at what some in the industry considered high prices.

BP also said that, having met debt reduction targets, it would resume a program of buying back shares, a way to increase the price of BP stock; it had not bought back shares since the first quarter of last year, as its business was battered by the pandemic. In the second quarter the company plans to spend $500 million on such purchases.

Last summer, BP also cut its dividend for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon disaster a decade ago, to 5.25 cents a share. The dividend will remain at that level, the company said.

BP said it could generate a surplus with oil prices above $45 a barrel. Lately, prices have been considerably higher, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, at about $66 a barrel.

Nonprofit organizations “across the ideological spectrum” filed briefs supporting Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

A Supreme Court case argued on Monday has created strange bedfellows, which did not escape the attention of the justices.

The matter pits charities against the State of California over donor disclosure requirements, and it’s a dispute over a seemingly small technical issue that some say has serious implications for political donations. It has turned groups that are often on opposite sides of political fights into — tentative — allies, the DealBook newsletter reports.

Nonprofit organizations “across the ideological spectrum” filed briefs supporting the petitioners, the Koch-backed charity Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted. The foundation argues that California violates the constitutionally protected right to anonymous association by collecting major donor data and failing to protect it (the state’s website has experienced security breaches). Justice Kavanaugh cited a filing from the American Civil Liberties Union, the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Education Fund and others who all agreed that “a critical corollary of the freedom to associate is the right to maintain the confidentiality of one’s associations.”

“Certainly, we don’t see eye to eye with the petitioners in this case on every issue,” Brian Hauss of the A.C.L.U. said at a news conference after arguments at the court. In this case, the A.C.L.U. standing with the Americans for Prosperity Foundation because of what it calls California’s “systemic incompetence” in failing to protect nonpublic data. Legally speaking, however, it recognized a distinction between public disclosure and nonpublic disclosure. In other words, the brief didn’t argue for a general extension of anonymity.

Opponents say this is a case about “dark money.” Democratic senators argued in a brief that the foundation is advancing the matter as a way to make it easier for special interests to influence politics with untraceable money. “This case is really a stalking horse for campaign finance disclosure laws,” Justice Stephen Breyer said. A ruling is expected in June.

Shares in UPS were rising in premarket trading after the delivery company released first-quarter results that showed consolidated operating profit up 158 percent compared with a year ago.
Credit…Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
  • U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday as investors digested more company earnings reports and awaited the Federal Reserve’s next policy decision on Wednesday. The S&P 500 drifted between gains and losses soon after the start of trading.

  • Tesla fell 2 percent even after the electric-car maker posted a quarterly profit of $438 million, its highest ever. UPS rose 11 percent after the parcel delivery company reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectations.

  • Alphabet, Microsoft and Visa are among companies also reporting earnings on Tuesday after the market closes.

  • By last Friday, a quarter of companies in the S&P 500 had published their first-quarter results, with 84 percent of them reporting earnings that were better than expected, according to FactSet. If this trend holds, it would be the highest percentage since FactSet started tracking the metric in 2008.

  • Most European stock indexes fell. The Stoxx Europe 600 declined nearly 0.3 percent.

  • HSBC rose 2 percent, becoming the best performer in the FTSE 100, after the bank said its pretax profits rose nearly 80 percent in the first quarter compared with last year. As the global economic outlook has improved, the bank released $435 million it had set aside for loan losses.

  • UBS dropped 3 percent after the Swiss bank said it lost $774 million in the first quarter from the collapse of the American hedge fund Archegos Capital Management.

Talasheia Dedmon enrolled her son Braylon in a college savings account through SEED for Oklahoma Kids, an effort to help a new generation climb the educational ladder and build assets.
Credit…September Dawn Bottoms for The New York Times

An experiment called SEED for Oklahoma Kids, or SEED OK, is one of a growing number of efforts by cities and states — governed by Democrats and Republicans alike — to help a new generation climb the educational ladder and build assets

SEED OK is a far-reaching research project begun in Oklahoma 14 years ago to study whether creating savings accounts containing $1,000 for newborns would improve their graduation rates and their chances of going to college or trade school years later, Patricia Cohen reports for The New York Times.

Research about the Oklahoma project published this month by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, which created SEED OK, found that families that had been given accounts were more college-focused and contributed more of their own money than those that hadn’t been. And the effects are strongest among low-income families.

The 1,300-plus children who were chosen at random to be given accounts in 2007 had an average of $3,243 saved by the end of 2019. Among the control group — another 1,300 children who were randomly selected to take part but were not given any money — only 4 percent had an account.

Proposals at the federal level to establish savings accounts at birth, for college, homes, business or retirement savings, go back to the 1990s. Canada, Israel, South Korea and Singapore have established versions of the idea. Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Illinois are among the states that have created programs.

Technical problems marred the Small Business Association’s first attempt at accepting applications for the grant program.
Credit…Zack Wittman for The New York Times

After months of delays and technical problems, the federal government finally opened a $16 billion grant fund for music club operators, theater owners and others in the live-event business on Monday.

Thousands of people hit the website for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program the moment it began accepting applications. Speed mattered: The money — awarded on a first-come-first-served basis — is widely expected to run out fast.

One applicant posted a screenshot showing that he was in line behind more than 6,000 others waiting for their turn to apply. “Hunger Games” memes — “May the odds be ever in your favor” — popped up in Twitter posts from desperate business owners venting their collective anxiety.

But this time, the system stayed up. As of 5 p.m. on Monday, the agency had received 6,040 grant applications, according to Andrea Roebker, an agency spokeswoman. Nearly 8,400 more had been created but not yet been completed.

Sarah Elger, chief executive of Pseudonym Productions, an events production company in Philadelphia, successfully submitted her application 16 minutes after she got access to the system.

“It was such a relief,” Ms. Elger said. She was one of thousands of business owners who had their hopes dashed earlier this month, when the Small Business Administration, the agency that runs the program, tried — and failed — to start taking applications. After four hours, the agency took the system offline for what turned into weeks of technology repair work.

Ms. Elger estimated that she uploaded more than 100 documents for her application, which she and her husband, Ricky Brigante, spent months preparing. They knew they would have to move quickly once the application website opened.

“We turned it into a game,” Ms. Elger said. “We had lots of folders on the desktop and raced through the uploads.”

The Small Business Administration said it would immediately start reviewing the applications, which are intended to yield grants for 45 percent of applicants’ prepandemic gross earned annual revenue, up to $10 million.

“We recognize the urgency,” said Barb Carson, the deputy associate administrator of the agency’s Office of Disaster Assistance. “With venue operators in danger of closing, every day that passes by is a day that these businesses cannot afford.”

The program, created in the $900 billion economic support package that President Donald J. Trump approved in December, is the first large direct-to-businesses grant program the Small Business Administration has ever run. The process, for both the agency and applicants, has for months been fraught with complexity and confusion.

John Russell, the executive director of the Montford Park Players, a nonprofit community theater group in Asheville, N.C., submitted his application on Monday afternoon. He is relying on the grant to help cover his group’s return to the stage.

After a full year of hosting only virtual events, the group is planning to open its first full in-person production, the Shakespeare play “The Comedy of Errors,” next month.

“We figured people are in the mood for comedy,” Mr. Russell said. The show’s actors are volunteers, but the production creates paid jobs for its director, stage manager, lighting designer, food vendors and others, as well as for the theater troupe’s support staff.

The Small Business Administration is also preparing to open a second grant program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion support fund for bars, restaurants and food trucks that was created in last month’s $1.9 trillion relief bill. That program is planning a seven-day test to help the agency avoid the kind of technical problems that plagued the venue program.

Credit…Max Guther

In today’s On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide says that what tech leaders believe and do matters. But when we focus on the chief executives, we sometimes neglect to recognize that regular people, not poobahs, make tech as we experience it.

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Federal Aid to Renters Moves Slowly, Leaving Many at Risk

WASHINGTON — Four months after Congress approved tens of billions of dollars in emergency rental aid, only a small portion has reached landlords and tenants, and in many places it is impossible even to file an application.

The program requires hundreds of state and local governments to devise and carry out their own plans, and some have been slow to begin. But the pace is hindered mostly by the sheer complexity of the task: starting a huge pop-up program that reaches millions of tenants, verifies their debts and wins over landlords whose interests are not always the same as their renters’.

The money at stake is vast. Congress approved $25 billion in December and added more than $20 billion in March. The sum the federal government now has for emergency rental aid, $46.5 billion, rivals the annual budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Experts say careful preparation may improve results; it takes time to find the neediest tenants and ensure payment accuracy. But with 1 in 7 renters reporting that they are behind on payments, the longer it takes to distribute the money, the more landlords suffer destabilizing losses, and tenants risk eviction.

scheduled to expire in June.

“I’m impressed with the amount of work that unsung public servants are doing to set up these programs, but it is problematic that more money isn’t getting out the door,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor at New York University who is studying the effort. “There are downstream effects if small landlords can’t keep up their buildings, and you want to reach families when they first hit a crisis so their problems don’t compound.”

Estimates of unpaid rents vary greatly, from $8 billion to $53 billion, with the sums that Congress has approved at the high end of the range.

The situation illustrates the patchwork nature of the American safety net. Food, cash, health care and other types of aid flow through separate programs. Each has its own mix of federal, state and local control, leading to great geographic variation.

programs with discretionary money from the CARES Act, passed in March 2020. These efforts disbursed $4.5 billion in what amounted to a practice run for the effort now underway with 10 times the money.

Lessons cited include the need to reach out to the poorest tenants to let them know aid is available. Technology often posed barriers: Renters had to apply online, and many lacked computers or internet access.

nearly 1 renter household in 5 reported being behind on payments.

The national effort, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, is run by the Treasury Department. It allocates money to states and also to cities and counties with populations of at least 200,000 that want to run their own programs. About 110 cities and 227 counties have chosen to do so.

The program offers up to 12 months of rent and utilities to low-income tenants economically harmed by the pandemic, with priority on households with less than half the area’s median income — typically about $34,000 a year. Federal law does not deny the aid to undocumented immigrants, though a few states and counties do.

Modern assistance seems to demand a mix of Jacob Riis and Bill Gates — outreach to the marginalized and help with software. Progress slowed for a month when the Biden administration canceled guidance issued under President Donald J. Trump and developed rules that require less documentation.

Other reasons for slow starts vary. Progressive state legislators in New York spent months debating the best way to protect the neediest tenants. Conservatives legislators in South Carolina were less focused on the issue. But the result was largely the same: Neither legislature passed its program until April, and neither state is yet accepting applications.

“I just don’t know why there hasn’t been more of a sense of urgency,” said Sue Berkowitz, the director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center. “We’ve been hearing nonstop from people worried about eviction.”

committee in the state House of Representatives found that after 45 days, the program had paid just 250 households.

By contrast, a program jointly run by the city of Houston and Harris County had spent about a quarter of its money and assisted nearly 10,000 households.

Not everyone is troubled by the pace. “Getting the money out fast isn’t necessarily the goal here, especially when we focus on making sure the money reaches the most vulnerable people,” said Diane Yentel, the director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

2018 study found the area had the country’s highest eviction rate. Charleston County ran three rounds of rental relief with CARES Act money, and the state ran two.

The second state program, started with $25 million in February, drew so many applications that it closed in six days. But South Carolina is still processing those requests as it decides how to distribute the new federal funds.

Antonette Worke is among the applicants awaiting an answer. She moved to Charleston from Denver last year, drawn by cheaper rents, warmer weather and a job offer. But the job fell through, and her landlord filed for eviction.

Ms. Worke, who has kidney and liver disease, is temporarily protected by the federal eviction moratorium. But it does not cover tenants whose leases expire, as hers will at the end of next month. Her landlord said he would force her to move, even if the state paid the $5,000 in overdue rent.

Still, she said the help was important: A clean slate would make it easier to rent a new apartment and relieve her of an impossible debt. “I’m stressing over it to the point where I’ve made myself sicker,” she said.

Moving faster than the state, Charleston County started its $12 million program two weeks ago, and workers have taken computers to farmers’ markets, community centers and a mall parking lot. Christine DuRant, a deputy county administrator, said the aid was needed to prevent foreclosures that could reduce the housing stock. But critics would pounce if the program sent payments to people who do not qualify, she said: “We will be audited,” possibly three times.

Latoya Green is caught where the desire for speed and accounting collide. A clerk who lost hours in the pandemic, she owes $3,700 in rent and utilities and is protected by the eviction moratorium only until her lease expires next month.

She applied for help on the day the county program started but has not completed the application. She said she is unsettled by the emails requesting her lease, which she lacks, and proof of lost income.

Still, Ms. Green does not criticize Charleston County officials. “I think they’re trying their best,” she said. “A lot of people run scams.”

With time running short, she added: “I just hope and pray to God they’ll be able to assist me.”

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We Asked Congress’s Freshmen to Give Up Stock Trading. Few Were Willing.

Additional attention in this area is a notion with bipartisan support, in an era that lacks much of that. In June, Representatives Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, and Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, introduced what they called the Trust Act.

The bill would require their colleagues, spouses and dependent children to use a qualified blind trust, as Mr. Ossoff and Mr. Kelly are doing. With such vehicles, a third party would control individual stocks, if any, and some other investment assets and keep the beneficiary from knowing much about the contents or from trading on specialized knowledge of coming legislation. (Owning and trading common investments like mutual funds would be fine.)

“This is about making it easier for members of Congress to do their job,” Mr. Roy said at the time.

And let us not forget what I outlined in detail in a November column: They’ll all end up with more money in the end, on average, if they (or their stockbrokers) stop believing that they’re smart enough to beat the market. The studies on this are legion, and a particularly fun one showed how badly people in Congress did, on average, when they tried to outsmart the market between 2004 and 2008.

It is perhaps not surprising that those who would be elected officials would not be passive investors. The same enhanced sense of self that propels many of them to run for office may well make them think they have some kind of stock-picking superpower. They almost certainly don’t — and neither do the financial advisers who are charging them handsomely. Perhaps they’ll come to their senses eventually.

Others may own stock or trade it to blow off steam, as a form of gambling. If they can afford to lose the money, and are truly not using any inside information or in a position to influence the policies that affect the companies they bet on, then there is no real harm.

But do they wish to lose elections over it?

Certainly, stock trading wasn’t the only issue at play in Georgia. But in purple parts of the country or districts where upstarts in their own party would try to make a case of it, these newly elected officials could be vulnerable. If they avoid individual stocks for political reasons rather than more principled reasons, so be it. It’s all to the good.

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Biden Details $1.52 Trillion Spending Proposal to Fund Discretionary Priorities

WASHINGTON — President Biden outlined a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.

The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.

Mr. Biden’s first spending proposal to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.

It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget document the White House will release this spring. And it does not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan or other efforts he has yet to roll out, which are aimed at workers and families.

Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.

But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.

Democratic leaders in Congress hailed the plan on Friday and suggested they would incorporate it into government spending bills for the 2022 fiscal year. The plan “proposes long overdue and historic investments in jobs, worker training, schools, food security, infrastructure and housing,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Shalanda D. Young, who is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director, told congressional leaders that the discretionary spending process would be an “important opportunity to continue laying a stronger foundation for the future and reversing a legacy of chronic disinvestment in crucial priorities.”

The administration is focusing on education spending in particular, seeing that as a way to help children escape poverty. Mr. Biden asked Congress to bolster funding to high-poverty schools by $20 billion, which it describes as the largest year-over-year increase to the Title I program since its inception under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program provides funding for schools that have high numbers of students from low-income families, most often by providing remedial programs and support staff.

The plan also seeks billions of dollars in increases to early-childhood education, to programs serving students with disabilities and to efforts to staff schools with nurses, counselors and mental health professionals — described as an attempt to help children recover from the pandemic, but also a longstanding priority for teachers’ unions.

Mr. Biden heralded the education funding in remarks to reporters at the White House. “The data shows that it puts a child from a household that is a lower-income household in a position if they start school — not day care — but school at 3 and 4 years old, there’s overwhelming evidence that they will compete all the way through high school and beyond,” he said.

There is no talk in the plans of tying federal dollars to accountability measures for teachers and schools, as they often were under President Barack Obama.

his vision of having every cabinet chief, whether they are military leaders, diplomats, fiscal regulators or federal housing planners, charged with incorporating climate change into their missions.

The proposal aims to embed climate programs into agencies that are not usually seen as at the forefront of tackling global warming, like the Agriculture and Labor Departments. That money would be in addition to clean energy spending in Mr. Biden’s proposed infrastructure legislation, which would pour about $500 billion on programs such as increasing electric vehicle production and building climate-resilient roads and bridges.

Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve, for supplies and efforts to restructure it that began last year. Nearly $7 billion would create an agency meant to research diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Reporting was contributed by Coral Davenport, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Lisa Friedman, Brad Plumer, Christopher Flavelle, Mark Walker, Dana Goldstein, Mark Walker, Noah Weiland, Margot Sanger-Katz, Lara Jakes, Noam Scheiber, Katie Benner and Emily Cochrane.

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Amazon Workers Defeat Union Effort in Alabama

The vote could lead to a rethinking of strategy inside the labor movement.

For years, union organizers have tried to leverage growing concerns about low-wage workers to break into Amazon. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union had organized around critical themes of supporting Black essential workers in the pandemic. The union had estimated that 85 percent of the workers at the Bessemer warehouse were Black.

The inability to organize the warehouse also follows decades of unsuccessful and costly attempts to form unions at Walmart, the only American company that employs more people than Amazon. The repeated failures at two huge companies may push labor organizers to focus more on backing national policies, such as a higher federal minimum wage, than unionizing individual workplaces.

Democrats in Washington, who put their full weight behind the union effort, said the loss showed that they needed to push for changes to labor and antitrust laws. The House of Representatives passed an expansion of worker protections this year, but it is unlikely to be approved in the Senate.

“Workers cannot organize to scale in America absent labor law reform, full stop,” Representative Andy Levin of Michigan, who had visited Bessemer, said in an interview.

The Amazon warehouse, on the outskirts of Birmingham, opened a year ago, just as the pandemic took hold. It was part of a major expansion at the company that accelerated during the pandemic. Last year, Amazon grew by more than 400,000 employees in the United States, where it now has almost a million workers. Warehouse workers typically assemble and box up orders of items for customers.

The unionization effort came together quickly, especially for one aimed at such a large target. A small group of workers at the building in Bessemer approached the local branch of the retail workers’ union last summer. They were frustrated with how Amazon constantly monitored every second of their workday through technology and felt that their managers were not willing to listen to their complaints.

Organizers appeared to have strong support early on, getting at least 2,000 workers to sign cards saying they wanted an election, enough for the National Labor Relations Board, which conducts union elections, to approve a vote.

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Biden Backs Taiwan, but Some Call for a Clearer Warning to China

WASHINGTON — If anything can tip the global power struggle between China and the United States into an actual military conflict, many experts and administration officials say, it is the fate of Taiwan.

Beijing has increased its military harassment of what it considers a rogue territory, including menacing flights by 15 Chinese warplanes near its shores over recent days. In response, Biden administration officials are trying to calibrate a policy that protects the democratic, technology-rich island without inciting an armed conflict that would be disastrous for all.

Under a longstanding — and famously convoluted — policy derived from America’s “one China” stance that supports Taiwan without recognizing it as independent, the United States provides political and military support for Taiwan, but does not explicitly promise to defend it from a Chinese attack.

As China’s power and ambition grow, however, and Beijing assesses Washington to be weakened and distracted, a debate is underway whether the United States should make a clearer commitment to the island’s defense, in part to reduce the risk of a miscalculation by China that could lead to unwanted war.

foreign policy challenge seizing the Biden administration as it devises its wider Asia strategy. At the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, which is reviewing its military posture in Asia, officials are re-evaluating core tenets of American strategy for a new and more dangerous phase of competition with China.

American officials warn that China is growing more capable of invading the island democracy of nearly 24 million people, situated about 100 miles off the coast of mainland China, whose status has obsessed Beijing since Chinese nationalists retreated and formed a government there after the country’s 1949 Communist revolution.

Last month, the military commander for the Indo-Pacific region, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, described what he sees as a risk that China could try to reclaim Taiwan by force within the next six years.

The United States has long avoided saying how it would respond to such an attack. While Washington supports Taiwan with diplomatic contacts, arms sales, firm language and even occasional military maneuvers, there are no guarantees. No statement, doctrine or security agreement compels the United States to come to Taiwan’s rescue. A 1979 congressional law states only that “any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means” would be of “grave concern to the United States.”

The result is known as “strategic ambiguity,” a careful balance intended both to avoid provoking Beijing or emboldening Taiwan into a formal declaration of independence that could lead to a Chinese invasion.

essay in the September issue of Foreign Affairs magazine that declared that strategic ambiguity had “run its course.”

“The time has come for the United States to introduce a policy of strategic clarity: one that makes explicit that the United States would respond to any Chinese use of force against Taiwan,” Mr. Haass wrote with his colleague David Sacks.

Mr. Haass and Mr. Sacks added that the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, may question America’s willingness to defend its alliances after four years under President Donald J. Trump, who railed against “endless wars” and openly questioned the United States’ relationships and security commitments. While more hawkish-sounding, a clearer pledge would be safer, they argued.

“Such a policy would lower the chances of Chinese miscalculation, which is the likeliest catalyst for war in the Taiwan Strait,” Mr. Haass and Mr. Sacks wrote.

remarks in February at an event hosted by The Washington Post, Robert M. Gates, a former defense secretary and C.I.A. director who served under presidents of both parties, including Mr. Bush and Barack Obama, called Taiwan the facet of U.S.-China relations that concerned him the most.

Mr. Gates said that it might be “time to abandon our longtime strategy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan.”

The notion gained another unlikely adherent when former Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat and longtime dove on military issues, argued in an opinion essay in The Hill newspaper last month that on human rights grounds, the United States must guarantee that a thriving Asian democracy be protected from “forcible absorption into an unashamedly brutal regime that exemplifies the denial of fundamental human rights.”

Mr. Frank cited China’s “imperviousness to any other consideration” than force as reason to “save 23 million Taiwanese from losing their basic human rights.”

Though of limited value in territorial terms, Taiwan in recent years has also gained a greater strategic importance as one of the world’s leading producers of semiconductors — the high-tech equivalent of oil in the emerging supercomputing showdown between the United States and China, which faces microchip supply shortages.

sent dozens of warplanes over the Taiwan Strait days after Mr. Biden’s inauguration in January, the State Department released a statement declaring America’s “rock solid” commitment to the island. Mr. Biden raised the subject of Taiwan during his phone call in February with Mr. Xi, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and the national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised their concerns about the island during their meeting last month in Anchorage with two top Chinese officials.

“I think people are bending over backward to say to China, ‘Do not miscalculate — we strongly support Taiwan,’” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Ms. Glaser said she had been surprised at the Biden team’s early approach toward Taiwan, which so far has maintained the Trump administration’s amplified political support for the island, a posture some critics called overly provocative. She noted that Mr. Blinken had recently urged Paraguay’s president in a phone call to maintain his country’s formal ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from Beijing, and that the U.S. ambassador to Palau, an archipelago state in the Western Pacific, recently joined a diplomatic delegation from that country to Taiwan.

“That is just really outside of normal diplomatic practice,” Ms. Glaser said. “I think that was quite unexpected.”

But Ms. Glaser does not support a more explicit U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s defense. Like many other analysts and American officials, she fears that such a change in policy might provoke China.

“Maybe then Xi is backed into a corner. This could really cause China to make the decision to invade,” she warned.

billions of dollars in arms sales under the Trump administration that featured fighter jets and air-to-ground missiles allowing Taiwanese planes to strike China. Such equipment is meant to diminish Taiwan’s need for an American intervention should it come under attack.

But Mr. Colby and others say the United States must develop a more credible military deterrent in the Pacific region to match recent advances by China’s military.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, H.R. McMaster, a national security adviser for Mr. Trump, said the current ambiguity was sufficient.

“The message to China ought to be, ‘Hey, you can assume that the United States won’t respond’ — but that was the assumption made in June of 1950, as well, when North Korea invaded South Korea,” Mr. McMaster said.

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Democrats Push Biden to Take Harder Line on Saudi Arabia

In addition to advancing the travel ban by Mr. Kim and Mr. Malinowski, the Foreign Affairs Committee voted unanimously to require American intelligence officials to release a report on the role that commercial entities controlled by the crown prince — such as shell companies or airlines — played in Mr. Khashoggi’s murder. The amendment, led by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, sets up a process to eventually impose sanctions on those organizations under the Global Magnitsky Act.

Lawmakers have also become increasingly concerned with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as the nation faces rising rates of famine that aid groups warn are likely to rise, after an air and sea blockade by the Saudi-led coalition on Houthi-controlled territory has restricted imports of vital goods.

As part of cease-fire negotiations, Saudi officials offered last month to reopen the airport in Sana, the Yemeni capital, and allow fuel and food to flow through a major Yemeni seaport, but a spokesman for the Houthis said that they would not agree to discuss a cease-fire until Saudi Arabia first lifted its blockade.

Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee were shaken after a closed-door briefing they received late last month from David Beasley, the executive director of the United Nation’s World Food Programme and a former Republican governor. Mr. Beasley, who had just returned from a trip to Yemen, painted a dire situation of mass starvation and hospitals without fuel, and impressed upon lawmakers the urgency of lifting the blockade “immediately,” according to two officials who attended.

“Ending U.S. support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen alone isn’t enough if we allow the blockade to continue,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, who led the letter to the Biden administration. “This blockade is causing immense suffering and starvation among Yemeni children and families, and it needs to be lifted now.”

But pushing the administration to pressure the Saudis to do so may be an uphill battle, according to Peter Salisbury, a Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, who said in an interview that control of the ports amounted to “very important pieces of leverage in the negotiations from the Saudi perspective.”

“When you look at it from the perspective of the administration, they are trying to deal with these things through existing negotiation mechanisms,” Mr. Salisbury said. “On Yemen, and in many other cases, there is no profoundly simple way of ending the war.”

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To Build Support for Infrastructure Plan, Biden Offers His Own Take on ‘Bipartisan’

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s attempt to muscle through a $2 trillion plan to rebuild the country’s infrastructure — along with the tax increases to pay for it — will be a defining test of his belief that bipartisan support for his proposals can overwhelm traditional Republican objections in Congress.

Instead of paring back his ambitions in an effort to limit opposition from Republicans in the Senate or appease moderate Democrats in the House, Mr. Biden and his allies on Capitol Hill are barreling ahead with unapologetically bold, expensive measures, betting that they can build bipartisanship from voters nationwide rather than from elected officials in Washington.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and other members of his party are working to brand the bill as a liberal wish list of wasteful spending and a money grab from a Democratic administration that will drag down the economy with tax hikes.

But Mr. Biden is predicting that the broad appeal of wider roads, faster internet, high-speed trains, ubiquitous charging stations for electric cars, shiny new airport terminals and upgraded water pipes will undercut the expected barrage of ideological attacks that are already coming from Republican lawmakers, business groups, anti-tax activists and President Donald J. Trump.

tax increases in the president’s plan, with influential groups like the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warning lawmakers against raising taxes as the United States emerges from a deep economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But across the country, some local Republican officials are already embracing the prospect of millions of dollars in new infrastructure spending flowing into their communities, even as they are careful to express concern about new taxes.

high-speed rail station linking it to job centers in the Bay Area. He said the city had struggled to electrify its fleet of buses and provide robust internet, especially to poorer communities.

parliamentary budget tool known as reconciliation to push through the tax and spending plan with a simple majority vote and most likely only Democratic support.

At an event in his home state on Thursday, Mr. McConnell called Mr. Biden “a first-rate person” whom he liked personally. But he argued that the president was running a “bold, left-wing administration” and warned “that package that they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side.”

For Mr. Biden, who spent more than three decades in the Senate, the political calculations are far different than they were 12 years ago, when a similar measure was under consideration.

legislation that is now seen by many progressives as far too timid.

Mr. Obama and his aides spent weeks feverishly negotiating with conservative Democrats and a handful of Republicans in Congress, who pressed the president to limit the size of the spending plan. Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff at the time, said conservative Democrats like Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska insisted that the president win Republican support.

Senate parliamentarian to offer guidance on how many times senators can pursue reconciliation this fiscal year, which several Republicans took as a sign that they were preparing to bypass the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

“It is disingenuous for the president to invite Republicans to the White House and the Oval Office to discuss this when he’s made it very clear — and Democrats in Congress have made it very clear — they have no intention of working with Republicans on this package,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

inequities across the country, and they have counseled the White House against winnowing down a legislative package to win a handful of Republican votes.

“I’m not particularly hopeful that we’re going to see a giant awakening from Republicans who decide that they want to pass an infrastructure package that actually addresses climate,” Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters before Mr. Biden’s speech.

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