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The Biden Economy Keeps Growing—and the Experts Hate It

Another 339,000 jobs added in May. Doesn’t Biden understand the economy is supposed to suck?

Now Hiring sign on a window
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Like Rasputin, the Biden economy refuses to die even as the Federal Reserve, Congress, and the nation’s bank executives try to club it to death. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reported Friday morning that 339,000 jobs were created in May. That’s pretty much in line with the average over the previous 12 months (341,000).

The Fed won’t be pleased. It has raised interest rates 10 times since March 22, with three quarter-point hikes this year, and Fed governor Philip Jefferson signaled in a speech this week that the Fed would not raise them again in June while it assessed the state of the economy. It may have to reconsider. Inflation has been drifting down for nearly a year, but Fed Chairman Jerome Powell believes it necessary to increase unemployment significantly to keep it down. The BLS report said unemployment ticked up slightly in May, to 3.7 percent, which is still extremely low. (How can job growth increase while unemployment rises, you may wonder? The numbers are taken from different surveys.)

The Republican-controlled House did its best to wreck the Biden economy with its threatened refusal to raise the debt limit. But that dream died when it reached agreement this week with Biden on a package projected to reduce spending by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. The debt ceiling bill cleared the House Wednesday and the Senate late Thursday, well in advance of the so-called “X date.” We’re still waiting to see what kind of revenge House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s hard-right flank will take.

Executives of three now-defunct midsize banks—Silicon Valley, Signature, and First Republic—threatened to bring on a recession through enthusiastic mismanagement enabled by deregulation. It’s mostly on the banking sector’s behalf that the Fed is contemplating a pause in interest rate hikes. But the Biden expansion continues, undaunted and undead.

“We Have to Bring Religion Back Into Our Country,” Says Sexual Abuser Donald Trump

It’s not clear when exactly Trump thinks religion left our country.

Donald Trump
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

On Thursday, twice-impeached, criminally indicted, and liable-for-sexual-abuse former President Donald Trump told a room of faith leaders in Iowa that “we have to bring religion back into our country.”

It’s unclear when or how religion exactly “left” the United States, according to Trump. As far as Christianity goes, it still is deeply baked in an array of American institutions, not least in the pledge of allegiance children are forced to recite every morning in their supposedly politics-free classrooms. Moreover, we have representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who proudly proclaimed herself to be a Christian nationalist, or Lauren Boebert, who said, “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.”

Bar nothing, Republicans’ most drawn-upon course of action in the face of tragedies is not government action or policy change, but prayer.

Recall that as president, Trump explicitly brought religion into politics by targeting religious minorities with things like his infamous Muslim ban, regularly sharing antisemitic conspiracy theories, and nominating a Supreme Court justice who was part of a religious covenant that called for women to be subservient to men.

More likely than not, Trump’s comments are part of a broader handwave toward vilifying LGBTQ people (framed by the far right as perverse or “ungodly”) at the beginning of Pride Month, and a token of reminder toward conservative religious groups that have jostled to erode abortion rights in this country. Given Trump is in primary mode for now, he’s looking to harden all bases of support, especially in the wake of groups like Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America condemning the former president for refusing to declare his support for a federal abortion ban.

Of course, whether Trump is encouraging even further encroachment of religion into our institutions, or whether he’s specifically nodding toward vilifying LGBTQ people or eroding abortion rights, it’s all unpopular. So he can throw the comments out as much as he wants—funnier too given that every other primary candidate will try to one-up everything he says. Once the primary is all said and done, the output will be a Republican candidate whose agenda is enveloped in the kind of extreme conservative objectives that have led the party to lose over and over and over again.

Montana Library Cancels Trans Speaker for Fear of Punishment Under Anti-Drag Law

The drag bans were never just about drag. This was the intended effect.

Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post/Getty Images

A public library in Montana on Thursday canceled a talk that would feature a transgender speaker, due to the state’s newly implemented drag ban.

The Butte-Silver Bow Public Library hosts a monthly series called First Fridays, which features a speaker or documentary on the first Friday of each month. The library was set to host trans Indigenous journalist Adria Jawort on June 2 to discuss the history of two-spirit (the Indigenous term for trans and nonbinary) people in Montana and the community’s current experiences.

But on Thursday, the library announced they were canceling Jawort’s appearance out of concern it would violate the law. “Our ‘First Friday’ speaker has been cancelled due to recent legislation (HB359) and at the recommendation of Butte-Silver Bow County legal council,” the library wrote on its Facebook page.

“Our commitment to promoting inclusivity and intellectual exploration remains, but not in violation of law.”

Jawort told The New Republic that she was “surprised” and “shocked” the library had canceled her lecture. There had already been complaints, to the point that the library was considering having a police presence during her speech, but she did not expect the event to be canceled altogether.

“The lecture was how LGBTQ2s, trans, two-spirit people have existed since time immemorial in the Americas,” Jawort said. “That’s always my greatest weapon in the fight against bigotry and ignorance, is knowledge. And that’s why these lectures are important.”
Jawort noted that her lecture was canceled just two months after the Montana state legislature censured Zooey Zephyr, the state’s first and only trans lawmaker. “They’ll [say,] ‘Oh, it’s because of this, because of that,’ but then the bottom line is no, you’re explicitly choosing to silence trans people,” Jawort said.

Governor Greg Gianforte signed the extreme, vaguely worded drag ban just last week. The law bans drag performers, which are defined as “a male or female performer who adopts a flamboyant or parodic feminine persona with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup,” from performing where children are present. It is also the first measure to specifically ban drag story hours in public libraries, meaning it does not only restrict performances that might be more openly sexual.

Jawort is not a drag queen, and the lecture was intended for adults, although children could have attended if they wanted. The library’s decision is a sign that the drag bans are having their intended effect: forcing LGBTQ people out of public view. The law is so confusing, and the punishments are so high, that many people and organizations are trying to avoid the risk.

Montana was the third state to ban drag performances, after Tennessee in March and Florida in May. The Tennessee law was blocked by a judge for violating free speech rights, but Pride groups in Florida are already canceling events in light of the new legislation. A similar bill has passed the Texas legislature, and Governor Greg Abbott is widely expected to sign the measure into law.

This post has been updated.

Here Are the Three “Liberal” Senators Who Helped Republicans Block Biden’s Student Loan Relief

The senators, who ordinarily caucus with Democrats, voted against helping millions of people struggling with student debt.

Capitol Building
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Senate voted to block President Joe Biden’s student loan relief program. Senate Republicans were joined by Democrats Joe Manchin and Jon Tester and independent Kyrsten Sinema in leaving up to 43 million people in crippling debt.

Thanks to their vote, the legislation now heads to the desk of Joe Biden.

Note that these conservative senators, all of whom caucus with the Democrats, are fans of preserving the 60-vote filibuster threshold, which prevents affirmative policy changes from happening. Meanwhile, they’ll happily vote with a simple minority to do whatever they can to actively stop affirmative government action too.

The vote comes after two House Democrats, Jared Golden and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, joined Republicans to block the plan last week. Golden and Perez are co-chairs of the famously inefficacious conservative Blue Dog caucus, which has served as a home to corporate-chasing Sinema and NRA A-rated, anti-choice conservative Henry Cuellar.

As a reminder, while these conservative Democrats pretend their votes are in line with “everyday Americans,” their votes signify keeping the soul-crushing boot of wildly undue debt on the backs of 43 million people. That boot harms those individuals’ lives, as well as the lives of the millions of friends, family members, and neighbors who surround them.

Estimates show that 87 percent of the relief from Biden’s plan would go to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year, while none would go to those earning more than $125,000. Ninety-five percent of the total benefits would go to households making less than $150,000.

Biden has previously said he would veto such a measure to block his plan; some thus argue the conservative Democrats’ votes are symbolic. But even if they are, the symbol is one of cowardice, of an incredible refusal to communicate to voters that a policy that uplifts millions of working people is worth pursuing at all.

Ron DeSantis Says He Wants to Do Ballot Harvesting

“We’re gonna do ballot harvesting,” the Republican candidate proudly told an Iowa voter.

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Ron DeSantis

On Wednesday, when he wasn’t busy snapping like a petulant child at reporters, Ron DeSantis was assuring Iowa voters that he is “gonna do ballot harvesting.”

To be clear, ballot harvesting—or what it’s known as when not in scare quotes: ballot collection—has long historical precedence in helping burdened communities have their voices heard (and those most burdened by society ought to be heard, so those burdens ideally become less heavy). The practice can help collect the ballots of the elderly, disabled, or those who do not have easy access to polling locations. Consequently, 24 states and Washington, D.C., allow voters to choose someone to return mail ballots on their behalf.

The left has long sought to expand voting access for all voters, no matter their party identification. Republicans, on the other hand, facing loss after loss, have only recently begun to embrace measures like ballot drop boxes and ballot collection. It’s often framed as “getting back” at the supposedly cheating left, and paired with more troubling proposals on voting rights.

DeSantis, for example, while telling the Iowa voter of his plans to pursue ballot harvesting, made sure to contrast such a practice with Nevada’s, where everyone is sent a ballot, “which is bad.”

The oscillation has been championed by the Republican primary leader as well. In February, twice-impeached, criminally indicted, and liable-for-sexual-abuse former President Donald Trump called putting ballot drop boxes “ALL OVER THE PLACE” the “BEST IDEA I’VE HEARD IN A LONG TIME.”

DeSantis, though, has been at the forefront of making the case. In April, after a left-leaning judge beat a conservative one by 11 points to give Wisconsin a liberal majority on the Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years, the Florida governor chided Republicans for their “culture of losing.” He called on the party to use tactics like ballot harvesting.

“I think you should have ballot harvesting where it’s legal and then fight to have the legislatures in those states get rid of it, because that’s not the way you should conduct an election,” DeSantis said.

Last year, DeSantis signed a bill making ballot harvesting a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and up to five years of probation. Other recent Florida laws have cut the number of ballot drop boxes available to the public and made it more difficult for formerly incarcerated individuals to regain their voter rights (to the point of intimidating them from trying at all).

Instead of calling for ballot harvesting while also working to make it illegal, Republicans could make ballot collection moot by making voting more accessible in general. Until that mythical day that conservatives support more democratic enfranchisement, though, we’ll keep seeing Republicans clamoring to reap whatever advantage they can out of an electoral system that already allows them to win elections, and policy outcomes, while barely ever winning the popular vote.

GOP Senator Admits Republicans Don’t Care if Accusations Against Joe Biden Are “Accurate”

Republicans have totally lost the plot with their investigation into Joe Biden.

Senator Chuck Grassley
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Senator Chuck Grassley

Another Republican accidentally admitted Thursday that the party’s investigation into Joe Biden is not actually about turning up the truth.

House Republicans have been investigating the president and his family for months but have been unable to provide any actual evidence linking Biden to any wrongdoing. House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer demanded last week that the FBI hand over a document he claims will prove some of these allegations, and threatened FBI Director Christopher Wray with contempt of Congress if he doesn’t provide the document.

But it seems the actual evidence doesn’t matter all that much. Speaking on Fox News Thursday morning, Senator Chuck Grassley said that Republicans are only interested in making sure the FBI complies with the investigation. “We aren’t interested in whether or not the accusations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not,” he said.

When pressed, Grassley admitted he didn’t know whether the document would actually prove any of the accusations against Biden. Fox News host Bill Hemmer incredulously asked whether he had read the document.

“Let’s put it this way, there’s accusations in it,” Grassley said. “It’s not for me to make a judgment about whether these accusations are accurate or not. It’s up to my job to make sure the FBI’s doing their job.”

Comer has accused the Bidens of influence peddling in Romania, and Hunter Biden of having business deals in China. He keeps insisting that he will soon have proof, but it’s gotten to the point that even some Fox News hosts are growing weary of the constant posturing.

Comer also seemed to imply last week that one major goal of their investigation has been to tank Biden’s popularity in the 2024 presidential election polls. Between his and Grassley’s comments, it would seem that Republicans aren’t interested in exposing wrongdoing after all.

Exxon CEO Says ESG Is Good, Actually

Has one of the world’s biggest oil and gas drillers gone woke?

Darren Woods gestures while speaking.
Exxon CEO Darren Woods attends a conference in May.

Has ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods been infected by the woke mind virus? At a conference hosted by the financial analytics firm Bernstein, Woods—who enjoyed a 52 percent pay bump in 2022 amid soaring profits—spoke fondly about environmental, social and governance principles. ESG, as the abbreviation goes, has become a bogeyman for the right in recent years: Conservative state legislatures continue to pass sweeping bans on public employee pension funds’ ability to consider things like climate change in their investment decisions.  

But Woods gave a hearty endorsement for why his company employs ESG principles throughout its operations on Thursday. “I don’t think any company’s been around—particularly one that has the exposure that we do with regards to the impact on the environments and communities that we operate in—I don’t think you can survive for 140 years and not have ESG elements, or the focus of ESG, embedded in your organization,” he said, calling it a “really critical component of our success.” 

This is a funny statement for two reasons. First, the day before the conference, Exxon shareholders—in line with recommendations from corporate management, including Woods—voted down all of the 13 climate resolutions put before them. Eight-nine percent rejected a petition to have them set emissions-reduction targets consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, to limit warming to well below two degrees Celsius. The measure that earned the most support from Exxon shareholders (36 percent) stipulated that the company should report more about its methane emissions.

Second, when right-wing politicians funded by dark money rant about how bad ESG is, they typically claim they’re defending fossil fuel companies. These politicians say fossil fuel companies are being unfairly maligned by the likes of Blackrock CEO Larry Fink and other globalists looking to undemocratically enforce the whims of investor-led climate efforts like the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (a toothless group of banks, asset managers and insurance companies). 

Yet as Woods conveyed on Wednesday, ESG is principally a way to ensure that companies can continue to make as much money as possible—whether by examining the risks that climate change might actually pose to their operations or by burnishing their green credentials with flashy pledges. “Using” ESG in one’s day-to-day operations, ironically, doesn’t actually mean reducing fossil fuel use—the thing the right is most worked up about. 

For companies like Exxon, the ginned-up culture war over largely cosmetic differences in business strategy is a win-win: While they can talk up their company’s ESG moves to curry favor with liberals, right-wing attacks simultaneously provide cover for them to stop paying as much lip service to climate change and continue proudly with business as usual. Last year, 28 percent of the company’s shareholders voted for the resolution asking Exxon to align its emissions targets with the goals of the Paris Agreement. This year, with Republicans complaining about ESG to anyone who will listen, the same resolution received less than half that level of support. If you’re an oil and gas executive, ESG raises one key question: What’s not to love? 

Pentagon Kicks Off Pride Month by Canceling Drag Show at Air Force Base

Happy Pride!

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley

To mark the start of Pride Month, the Pentagon has canceled a drag show that was scheduled for Thursday at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

This would have been the third year that Nellis hosted a performance by artists from the nearby Las Vegas drag community. The event, which billed itself as family-friendly, has been generally popular among both people on the base and performers.

Air Force leaders had approved the show, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley ordered that the show be canceled or moved off base, claiming it is not Pentagon policy to fund drag shows on bases, NBC reported late Wednesday.

“Hosting these types of events in federally funded facilities is not a suitable use of DOD resources,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said in a statement. “Our Service members are diverse and are allowed to have personal outlets.”

Coco Montrese, a drag queen who performed at the first Nellis show and was expected to take the stage Thursday, said she was “shocked and disappointed” by the decision to cancel.

“Recently the attacks on the LGBTQ+ community are getting louder and louder. Fear is a very big business for politicians who use it to control the masses,” she told the local CBS news station.

“Creating a narrative by certain actions is careless because actions do speak louder than words. This action, 24 hours before the event would take place, is a clear message. I think we all know what that message is.”

Florida Representative Matt Gaetz took credit for the decision, hailing it as a “HUGE VICTORY.” Gaetz had grilled Austin and Milley about drag shows on bases during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in March on the defense budget.

Gaetz took particular issue with drag queen story hours being hosted on bases and accused the military of using federal dollars to fund such events. Austin said that “drag shows are not something the Defense Department supports or funds,” and Milley said he wanted to look further into drag shows on bases because “those things shouldn’t be happening.” Gaetz later sent the two officials a letter requesting more information about Pride events held on bases, including the show at Nellis.

Drag shows are a new favorite target among the far right. Tennessee, Florida, and Montana have passed laws banning drag performances (the Tennessee law is currently blocked), and a similar bill has passed the Texas legislature. Governor Greg Abbott is widely expected to sign the measure into law.

One chilling element about the Pentagon’s move is the language the department has used to explain the decision. The statements use words that imply that drag is inappropriate and should be done in private. Similarly, the Republicans backing drag bans argue that the art form is obscene and not suitable for children. In reality, these arguments aim to force LGBTQ people back out of public view.

Lauren Boebert Hated the Debt Ceiling Bill So Much She Missed the Vote

The Colorado representative didn’t make time to vote against the bill she spent so much time criticizing.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Apparently Lauren Boebert didn’t care that much about the debt ceiling—she skipped the vote!

On Wednesday, the House voted 314–117 to raise the debt limit in return for weakening the IRS, increasing work requirements on social services, restarting student loan payments, and expediting the Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

The bill’s austerity measures and giveaways to corporate America were certainly not as much as Republicans wanted, leaving some unsatisfied, like the far-right House Freedom Caucus—including Boebert herself. She’s been among the Republicans making the rounds everywhere, for instance Steve Bannon’s War Room program, to whip up opposition to an agreement not as extreme as they would like.

And yet, after all that, Boebert was caught like a middle schooler running just late of catching the school bus in the morning:

To Boebert’s credit, the past few weeks for her seem to have been busy. Last week, she admitted she only had her third son because birth control was too expensive.

Also last week, reports came out of 911 call tapes of Boebert’s son desperately calling for help, saying his father (Boebert’s then husband) was “fucking throwing me around the house.”

The boy was crying, saying, “He does this to me so much.” Boebert then is heard intervening in the call, insisting that her son “doesn’t need help.”

Despite the external happenings, it’s astonishing Boebert missed voting on a bill she spent so much time deriding.

In total, more Democrats voted for the debt ceiling bill than Republicans; McCarthy’s alleviating headache is thanks entirely to the Democrats.

The debt limit bill now goes to the Senate, with Democrats like Tim Kaine, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Jeff Merkley expressing discontent or outright opposition to it. Kaine was particularly incensed by the inclusion of expedition of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. Sanders said he cannot “in good conscience” vote for a bill that cuts programs for working people and gives favors to the fossil fuel industry.

Trump’s Lawyers Reportedly Hate Each Other So Much It’s Undermining His Defense Case

The lawyers don’t trust each other, and some began withholding information from each other.

Andrew Kelly/Pool/Getty Images
Donald Trump with his attorneys (from left) Todd Blanche, Susan Necheles, Joe Tacopina, and Boris Epshteyn during his arraignment at the Manhattan Criminal Court on April 4

Donald Trump’s legal team reportedly has so much internal conflict that it could actually hinder its ability to defend the former president for his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

The infighting began soon after the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago last August, but the division only came to light when Trump’s lawyer Tim Parlatore abruptly quit two weeks ago. Parlatore’s main reason for leaving was irreconcilable differences with Trump’s senior adviser and in-house counsel, Boris Epshteyn.

Most of the problems stem from a lack of trust on the team, The Guardian reported Thursday. The lawyers don’t trust each other and especially not Epshteyn, because they felt he micromanaged them and blocked direct access to Trump.

Some of the lawyers reportedly agreed to quit in solidarity if Parlatore were fired. Parlatore and another lawyer, Jim Trusty, disliked Epshteyn so much that they began withholding information from him.

Trusty chafed at having to run all of his decisions by Epshteyn first, according to a Guardian reporter who overheard him complaining last August. Trusty felt Epshteyn was not a trial lawyer and focused too much on Trump’s P.R. issues, not legal ones.

Parlatore has accused Epshteyn of attempting to block searches of Trump’s properties for classified documents. And both Parlatore and Trusty were frustrated by the fact that Epshteyn was usually included in any phone calls with Trump. They felt Epshteyn was misleading Trump about the state of the lawsuit.

It got to the point that the pair began withholding information from Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran because they worried he would brief Epshteyn without their knowledge. But that hobbled the team’s ability to build a defense, as the different factions had no clue what the others were doing.

Parlatore and Corcoran have since testified in front of the grand jury investigating Trump’s decision to keep classified documents. Special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation, also interviewed Epshteyn in April.

As it turns out, not only were the lawyers hiding things from each other, but Trump was hiding things from his lawyers. A judge ruled in March that some of Trump’s attorney-client privileges could be “pierced” after prosecutors for Smith’s team found that Trump intentionally misled his own lawyers about keeping classified materials when he left office. New reports have revealed that Trump knew he wasn’t supposed to keep classified documents and that he couldn’t automatically declassify them, but he hid the papers anyway.

Smith has not yet issued any criminal charges, but he seems to be circling ever closer to Trump. And that’s not even the end of the former president’s legal troubles. Trump is also under investigation in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He has been indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records for paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump was found civilly liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll—and last week, she sued him for defamation again over comments he made about her during a CNN town hall. So his legal team should probably start working together pretty soon.