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Matt Gaetz’s Brilliant Idea for the Debt Ceiling Crisis: Medicaid Work Requirements

The Florida representative wants to force people to work to get health care.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Matt Gaetz is apparently rallying his colleagues to force work requirements on people in order for them to get health care.

The Florida representative told Semafor that he’s been pitching the idea of tightening Medicaid eligibility on “able-bodied working age adults” as part of a potential deal to raise the debt ceiling. Semafor reported Gaetz has been garnering “a very positive reception” to his pitch, including from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

“Work requirements are proving to be a very unifying concept with my colleagues,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz doubled down on Friday and added to his pitch, tweeting that “work requirements on means-tested programs (like Medicaid & food stamps) will curtail inflationary government spending and increase labor participation.”

On its face, these reports are concerning, given how much Gaetz and his fellow far-right colleagues have already secured from McCarthy. After dragging out the speaker vote, they were able to force him to modify the House rules package and give them highly sought-after committee seats. For Gaetz’s proposal to gain “very positive” favor with other Republicans, including McCarthy, is not a good sign.

But, realistically, this is a project most, if not all, Republicans would happily sign onto. Work requirements for social services like Medicaid have long been part of the conservative project; Gaetz is just more publicly pushing for what most of the caucus wants anyway.

As of October 2022, over 84 million people were enrolled in Medicaid, many of whom are elderly, children, pregnant, and/or low-income. Six states have held ballot measures on whether to expand Medicaid coverage; all six voted to do so, five of them being red states.

Political popularity has not stopped Republicans from persisting before, however, so the real-life stakes should not be understated. Imposing work requirements on millions of people just so they can receive health care—or even put food on the table—is draconian.

Value judgments aside, the punitive logic does not even work: A 2019 study on Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirements found 18,000 people lost health care coverage before a judge put the policy on hold, but there was no notable increase in employment. And the more problems one has to deal with—like an inability to obtain health care or medicine—the less one is able to live fully, let alone work sufficiently. So not only is the policy undesirable morally, it is not even effective economically.

YouTube Contractors Lead First Strike in Google History

The YouTube Music contractors are protesting a forced return to the office, after most of them were hired remotely to begin with.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Friday, in Austin, Texas, over 40 YouTube Music contractors are striking in what is believed to be the first time a group of Google workers will go on strike.

The workers—who are technically employed by Cognizant, a subcontractor of Google’s parent company, Alphabet—are striking in response to an order to return to the office in Austin by February 6. They argue the mandate is an unfair labor practice as many of them cannot afford to pay for relocation (travel, childcare, and beyond) while they’re paid just $19 an hour. A majority of them were hired remotely, nearly a quarter not even based in the state.

The workers, responsible for managing music content for YouTube’s 2.1 billion monthly worldwide users, argue the forced return is an unfair labor practice and retaliation to their organizing. A supermajority of the YouTube Music workers, members of Alphabet Workers Union-CWA, filed for union recognition from the National Labor Relations Board in late October.

Workers are awaiting the NLRB to rule on their union recognition and on recognizing Alphabet and Cognizant as joint employers—forcing both companies to negotiate. The union sees the return to office order as a violation of labor law that mandates fair union voting conditions, and says workers would negotiate return to office policies after a successful union election.

As of now, the union says both companies scapegoat the other for policies like the return to work mandate, muddying the waters of which entity is actually pushing the mandate and where exactly workers can seek accountability. And while Alphabet still exercises control over companies like Cognizant, subcontracting enables them to treat workers worse.

“The result of this two-tiered system is that full-time Google employees receive dramatically higher pay benefits, while contractors are treated as second-class workers,” Music Generalist Sam Regan explained to The New Republic.

Workers attempted to express their objections on numerous occasions. They conducted a mass email campaign, collecting testimonials as to how the policy would negatively impact workers. On January 20, workers submitted a letter to Cognizant CEO Ravi Kumar, demanding that he honor his previous support for flexible work arrangements. Receiving no response, workers filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB. And now they are striking.

The strike joins other action from the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA nationwide. On Thursday, workers rallied outside Google’s New York City office in response to Alphabet laying off 12,000 employees. On Wednesday, Google Raters—workers who train, test, and evaluate algorithms that drive Google’s reportedly 81 percent revenue-generating search function—delivered a petition demanding better working conditions. Namely, these workers are excluded from Alphabet-wide minimum standards ($15/hour, health care, tuition reimbursement, and more). The so-called “ghost workers” driving Google’s profits behind the scene are demanding to be compensated at least to the bare minimum.

While the workers are part of an ongoing story of tech companies mistreating their workers, this incident is unique as the workers are not exactly “tech” workers. “We’re actually all musicians and music industry workers. So our culture is really built around the love for music,” Regan explained. “For me, this is the most interesting and inspiring team that I’ve ever worked with at a job. And we think that over the past three years, since we began working remotely, our team metrics have been incredible. We’ve more than proven that we’re capable of delivering excellent work at the highest level.”

The workers are holding a press conference outside the Google Austin office at 12 p.m. E.T., which can be viewed here.

“SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!”: Republicans Lose Their Minds Over Reported Chinese Spy Balloon

Defense officials say the balloon does not pose a military or physical threat, and shooting it down could injure civilians.

Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette/AP Photo
A high-altitude balloon floats over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday, February 1. The U.S. is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over U.S. airspace for a couple days. The Pentagon would not confirm that the balloon in the photo is the surveillance balloon.

Republicans are lashing out at President Joe Biden, urging him to shoot down what is believed to be a Chinese spy balloon that has been spotted in U.S. airspace, a move that would be dangerous for both civilians and diplomacy.

A large white balloon was spotted over Montana earlier this week, just days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken was supposed to make his first visit to Beijing. Pentagon officials identified the balloon as a Chinese surveillance tool and said it had flown over one of the three U.S. nuclear missile silo fields located near the Malmstrom Air Force Base. Blinken has now postponed his trip indefinitely even though Chinese officials said Friday that the balloon was for weather research and had simply been blown off course—a claim the U.S. rejected.

Either way, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said the balloon is high enough that it will not interfere with commercial air traffic and “does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.” He noted that there had been similar balloons over the past several years, but the United States has taken steps to make sure they were unable to collect sensitive information. A senior defense official also told the AP that the balloon has “limited” value in providing China with intel that it couldn’t collect via other means.

But by the wee hours of Friday, Republicans were already demanding a more drastic approach: shooting the balloon out of the sky. They were led by Donald Trump, who insisted on Truth Social the U.S. should “SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON!”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy requested a briefing for the members of Congress cleared to receive classified information, slamming China’s “brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty.” Senator Marco Rubio said it was a “mistake” not to shoot the balloon down while it was over a sparsely populated area, while reported Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley said that not only should the U.S. shoot down the balloon, it should also cancel Blinken’s upcoming trip.

Biden had already considered shooting the balloon down but was strongly advised not to. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned him that doing so would create debris that could injure civilians. Even while the balloon was over low-population areas, it would have created a debris field large enough that people could have been hurt.

Blinken’s trip, which had not been publicized much, was supposed to kick off Sunday. The decision to call it off came just hours before the secretary was due to leave and came at an incredibly tense time for U.S.-Chinese relations. Beijing and Washington are locking horns over the diplomatic status of Taiwan, trade relations, and China’s human rights record. The U.S. is also frustrated with China’s tacit support for both Russia’s war on Ukraine and North Korea.

Who knows what also shooting down the balloon could set off?

This post has been updated.

Utah Could Soon Require Schools To Teach That the U.S. Economy Is Globally “Superior”

A proposed change would teach kids how the free market “made America the most free and prosperous country in the world.”

People hold a giant U.S. flag
Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The Utah board of education is considering requiring teachers to tell students that the American economic system is “superior” to the rest of the world.

The state board is meeting all day Thursday to review budgets and changes to curriculum. One such change is to the state’s financial literacy course, which would require the course to “explain why free market systems are superior and have made America the most free and prosperous country in the world.”

This statement, proposed by Republican board member Natalie Cline, is both technically incorrect and also bordering on propaganda.

Many economists argue that the United States is actually a mixed economy, not a free market, because of corporate monopolies and the government’s ability to intervene. The U.S. also ranks twenty-seventh in the world in terms of economic freedom.

But more importantly, the sentence is incredibly hyperbolic and reeks of an attempt to brainwash people into ardent patriotism. It smacks of former President Donald Trump’s penchant for hyperbole.

It’s unfortunate, since financial literacy is a hugely important life skill that isn’t taught widely enough. Only 27 states require schools to offer similar courses.

The proposed changes are also part of a nationwide trend of states, particularly ones with Republican leadership, clamping down on “wokeness”—that is, critical and liberal thinking. One of the most egregious examples is Florida, where this week alone the president of the New College was ousted by allies of Governor Ron DeSantis and replaced with another, and DeSantis announced he intends to dismantle diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on college campuses. Also this week, the College Board watered down the curriculum for its A.P. African American studies class after facing right-wing backlash.

Cline seems to be part of this trend. She has come under fire for spreading the conspiracy that critical race theory is being taught in elementary school classrooms. In February 2021, there was an unsuccessful petition to remove her from the state board of education for calling LGBTQ children “gender-confused” and referring to the LGBTQ community and Black Lives Matter movement as “indoctrination.”

Court Rules That Domestic Abusers Can Possess Firearms

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to allow domestic abusers to have access to firearms, even if they have a restraining order filed against them.

A gun on a table (bullets in a plastic bag beside it)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A federal court voted unanimously on Thursday to allow domestic abusers to possess firearms, even if someone filed a restraining order against them.

Striking down federal law, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of an alleged domestic abuser who was charged with illegally possessing a firearm. In February 2020, after allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend, the defendant had entered a civil protective order that prevented him from possessing a firearm. But since entering the agreement, he had been involved in five shootings, including shooting into the house of someone he sold narcotics to, shooting at the driver of a car in an accident he was involved in, and shooting multiple shots in the air after his friend’s credit card was declined at a Whataburger restaurant.

In an opinion teeming with fraught and puzzling logic, the court concludes that a “ban on possession of firearms is an ‘outlier[] that our ancestors would never have accepted.’” In other words, as law professor Jacob Charles puts it, because the Founding Fathers apparently didn’t care about domestic violence, neither should our modern laws.

The ruling is not only legally spurious and morally shocking but also incredibly dangerous. Studies have shown that nearly 70 percent of all mass shootings are related to domestic violence. In a country where mass shootings show no sign of slowing down, a loosening of commonsense gun laws bodes horrifyingly.

Moreover, around 4.5 million women in the United States have been threatened with a gun, and nearly one million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. A woman is five times more likely to be murdered when her abuser has access to a gun.

“This extreme and dangerous ruling is a death sentence for women and families as domestic violence is far too often a precursor to gun violence,” said Shannon Watts, founder of anti-gun violence advocacy group Moms Demand Action. “When someone is able to secure a restraining order, we must do everything possible to keep them and their families safe—not empower the abuser with easy access to firearms.”

The case follows last year’s controversial Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol v. Bruen, where the court issued an opinion describing a new originalist standard to be applied to gun regulation cases. If the law at hand appears to have no historical connection to the years the Second and Fourteenth Amendments were ratified—1791 and 1868, respectively—then the law can be deemed unconstitutional.

As in, our society’s adapted values and ideals, let alone its technological developments, don’t matter; all that matters is what a slaveholding man who didn’t even know what a telephone was might have believed.

Bear in mind that “wife beating” was only made illegal in all states in 1920, the same year women got the right to vote.

Indeed, brutish conservative politics leads us to reject modernity and embrace tradition—regressing the nation to a time of enabling and participating in senseless violence; suppressing the teaching of the struggles Black people face; and viciously controlling the bodies of women, girls, and gender minorities.

House Members Waste Our Time and Money To Pass Bill “Denouncing the Horrors of Socialism”

A whopping 328 House members, including 109 Democrats, voted for the bill.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

In a country ailed by the callousness of capitalism—as people are subject to a continual stream of mass shootings, ruthless police brutality, and having to resort to GoFundMe in order to pay for rent and hospital bills—members of Congress spent their workday, instead, denouncing socialism.

After Republican members on Thursday shamelessly voted to oust Representative Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 109 Democrats joined them to pass a bill “denouncing the horrors of socialism.”

In total, 328* House members—75 percent of the chamber—participated in the farce taking place in the people’s House. The 109 Democrats, many led by the New Democrat Coalition, decided that, instead of deriding the resolution as a meaningless exercise, they’d participate in the Republican-led charade.

With an argumentative flourish that literally boiled down to “socialism bad, capitalism good,” conservative members of the House spent our taxpayer dollars to lazily bemoan socialism and glorify America, a country filled with people who deserve much better. The so-called “greatest country on earth” does not even rank in the top 25 nations in terms of economic freedom. No wonder, given that over 100 million people in the country are burdened with restrictive medical debt.

“Socialism, like the devil, does not appear with horns and a pitchfork. He masquerades as an angel of light with promises of humans flourishing, all failed, all broken. Socialism isn’t empty words, it isn’t a speech, it’s a series of actions that rob people of their freedom and concentrate power in the hands of a few in their central government,” House Budget Chairman Jodey Arrington warned. He spoke as if capitalism, in all the glory he and his colleagues threw upon it, does not in fact offer false promises and does not concentrate power in the hands of the few.

Arrington went on to attack a government program that hasn’t even happened. “There’s a whole of government assault for all the world to see on an industry: American energy,” he lamented. “And it’s being replaced with this Green New Deal—hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, tax credits, grants,” Arrington continued, horrified at the idea of government subsidies for energy production, as if fossil fuels don’t receive billions of dollars in American subsidies every year.

“I believe our singular mission in this chamber, in this nation’s capital, is to fight for our country by preserving and protecting freedom for the next generation of Americans,” he finished. But freedom can’t come from empty promises of human flourishing.

Freedom, as The New Republic’s Michael Tomasky describes, entails “the freedom of people to reach their fullest human potential, pursue happiness, and lead lives of dignity and stability.” People can’t do that while they face bankruptcy while trying to go to school, or even the hospital; they can’t feel happy or fulfilled if their kids are constantly in fear of being shot at school, or by the police.

And if capitalism can’t even guarantee those basic freedoms, lawmakers have no business wasting their time glorifying it, or denouncing other visions for how a world can work.

* This post has been updated with the correct vote count.

House Republicans Brazenly Oust Ilhan Omar From Foreign Affairs Committee

“This debate today is about who gets to be an American. What opinions do we get to have, do we have to have, to be counted as Americans?”

Ilhan Omar
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

House Republicans have succeeded in their shameless campaign to eject Representative Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee—one she has served on since joining Congress. The House voted 218–211 on Thursday, approving a resolution to remove Omar on a standard the Republicans don’t hold themselves even remotely accountable to.

Republicans have gone after Omar for past comments she has made about Israel, accusing her of antisemitism. Omar has apologized for all such comments, on numerous occasions.

In her own remarks on Thursday, Omar laid out exactly what the “debate” was about.

“This debate today is about who gets to be an American. What opinions do we get to have, do we have to have, to be counted as Americans?” Omar said. “There is this idea that you are suspect if you are an immigrant, or if you are from certain parts of the world or a certain skin tone or a Muslim. It is no accident that members of the Republican Party accused the first Black president, Barack Obama, of being a secret Muslim.

“Well, I am Muslim, I am an immigrant, and interestingly from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced? Frankly, it is expected. Because when you push power, power pushes back.

“I am an American. An American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress.”

Meanwhile, Republicans themselves have tolerated, if not actively promoted, reprehensible antisemitic claims from within their own ranks.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom McCarthy said he would “never leave” and “always take care of,” has spread theories about “Zionist supremacists” engineering Muslim immigration to Europe and about Jewish space lasers setting forests on fire in California. Donald Trump, many Republicans’ favorite president—or at least someone they can barely ever say a bad word about—recently wined and dined with antisemites Nick Fuentes and Ye.

The vote comes after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy also reaped “vengeance” against Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, two members prominent during Trump’s impeachment hearings, by denying them seats on the intelligence committee.

Republicans sought to eject the three representatives as some sort of payback against the Democrats, who removed Representatives Greene and Paul Gosar from committees for inflammatory comments and online posts encouraging violence against other members of Congress.

To be clear, this is not actually “payback.” Such a term implies equal offense. When Democrats removed Greene and Gosar from their respective committees, it was done a month after an insurrection on the Capitol that both members played roles in inciting. Republicans approved of the removal of two members who simply dared to criticize Trump, and have now voted to remove a third who has repeatedly apologized for her past, and non-inciteful, comments.

The Republicans’ unembarrassed witch hunt against Omar, one of the only members of Congress who actively uses her platform to speak truth against foreign despotism everywhere, says it all about the GOP. The party has no interest in actually holding human rights violators to account, certainly has no actual moral integrity, and has a vested commitment to attacking the most marginalized among us—even, and especially, if they happen to be their own colleagues.

Of Course Joe Manchin Is Teaming Up With Ted Cruz To Defend Gas Stoves

No one is coming for your gas stove, Manchin.

Joe Manchin and Ted Cruz stand in a crowded elevator
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Senator Joe Manchin plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would prevent the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission from banning gas stoves, a very serious debate that has gotten Washington pretty heated.

The bill, which Manchin is co-sponsoring with Ted Cruz, would ban the use of federal funds to regulate or impose new consumer safety rules on gas cooktops.

They are not taking my gas stove out,” Manchin told reporters.

The debate over gas stoves sparked in earnest in mid-December when Richard Trumka, a CPSC commissioner, announced the organization was considering health regulations for and possibly even bans on gas stoves, following a report that they were responsible for almost 13 percent of childhood asthma cases.

The announcement set off Republicans, who took to social media to loudly declare that they would never give up their gas stoves. Here is a list of everyone who wants to take away gas stoves, particularly the one in Manchin’s house:

Trumka has already clarified that the agency will not forcibly take anyone’s gas stove, and is seeking to decrease the associated health hazards through new regulations. But it’s too late: The right wing, and now Manchin, have seized on his initial comments to spin the debate into hysteria.

What should have been a straightforward procedure for public health and safety has become a hot mess.

More on Gas Stoves

House Democrats Introduce Bill Protecting Right To Cross State Lines for Abortion

The Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act would protect anyone seeking an abortion out of their home state, and anyone who helps them.

Capitol Building
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

House Democrats reintroduced a bill Thursday to protect people’s right to travel out of state for an abortion, as many states clamp down on access to the procedure.

The Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act would protect not just anyone seeking an abortion out of their home state but also anyone who helps them, for instance someone who drives them across the border or the health care provider who carries out the procedure. Democrats had introduced the bill last summer, weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but the legislation failed to pass the Senate.

Since the nationwide right to abortion fell, people have rushed to states where the procedure is legal, such as Colorado, where reproductive health centers reported seeing wait times for an abortion double to two weeks, by midsummer, from one earlier in the year. One of the most tragic and infamous cases was a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who had to travel to Indiana for an abortion after she was raped.

As states try to restrict abortion access even further—including Kansas, where the legislature is seeking to overturn a ballot decision to protect abortion rights—one such method is to go after people who travel out of state for an abortion and those who help them when they get there. The Indiana attorney general tried to penalize the doctor who performed the 10-year-old’s abortion.

In March, before the Dobbs draft opinion had even been leaked, Republican state lawmakers in Missouri introduced a bill that would allow individuals to sue anyone who helped a state resident get an abortion, including an out-of-state health care provider or anyone providing transportation across state lines. State House lawmakers blocked the bill a few weeks later.

The Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act is unlikely to pass the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold the majority. The GOP has made it clear it opposes reproductive rights, despite losing big-time during the 2022 midterm elections as a result of its stance. The act passed the House when Democrats controlled the chamber last year, but failed to win the requisite 60 votes in the Senate.

The Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified the right to abortion, also failed to pass the Senate in May after all Republican senators and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin voted against it.

GOP Proceeds on Shameless Campaign To Oust Ilhan Omar From Foreign Affairs Committee

The Republican-controlled House is preparing for a final vote to remove the Minnesota congresswoman from the committee over her past criticism of Israel.

Ilhan Omar stands at a podium and looks to the side
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

House Republicans’ shameless campaign against Representative Ilhan Omar continues after the House on Wednesday voted along party lines, 218–209, to advance a resolution on removing the Minnesota congresswoman from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The House will have a final vote on Thursday that will determine whether Omar is ejected from the committee she has dutifully served on since she entered Congress—and so far, it looks like Republicans will have enough votes to make it happen.

Republicans have gone after Omar for past comments she has made about Israel, accusing her of antisemitism. Meanwhile, the House speaker also sought vengeance against Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, two members prominent during Trump’s impeachment hearings, by denying them seats on the intelligence committee.

The ejection of the three representatives comes as a payback mission against the Democrats, who removed Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from committees for inflammatory comments and online posts encouraging violence against other members of Congress.

There were some initial GOP holdouts, including Representatives Nancy Mace, Victoria Spartz, and Ken Buck. All voted in favor of advancing the resolution to boot Omar on Wednesday.

“This is about vengeance. This is about spite. This is about politics,” Representative James McGovern, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Ultimately, Republicans are not getting “payback,” as that would imply some level of equal give and take. Democrats voted to punish members notorious for inciting violence and hate; Republicans have approved of McCarthy’s removal of two members who dared criticize their king president, and are now voting to remove a third who has openly apologized for her past comments.

“It’s motivated by the fact that many of these members don’t believe a Muslim, a refugee, an African should even be in Congress, let alone have the opportunity to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee,” Omar said on Sunday on CNN.

No less farcical is this vote because of all the rank antisemitism Republicans have allowed to fester, if not promoted themselves, in recent years. Greene, whom McCarthy said he would “never leave” and “always take care of,” has spread theories about “Zionist supremacists” engineering Muslim immigration to Europe, and about Jewish space lasers setting forests on fire in California. Donald Trump, many Republicans’ favorite president—or at least someone they can barely ever say a bad word about—recently wined and dined with antisemites Nick Fuentes and Ye.

And if that wasn’t enough, the Republicans found a way to make this vote even more of a joke. In a country where millions of people struggle to find affordable health care, housing, or even education—ailments born from relentless capitalism—Republicans attached the resolution to another denouncing “the horrors of socialism.”