Biden infrastructure plan would boost jobs; Georgia voter law tensions

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics:

What specifics do you expect to be in Biden's "build back better" infrastructure plan?

Well, this is really a two-part plan. The first part Biden's rolling out this week, and it's focused mainly on infrastructure. Bridges, roads, tunnels, transit, the whole infrastructure smorgasbord, including on broadband deployment, as well as investing in things like rural hospitals, schools and upgrading buildings to be more energy efficient. Biden's proposed between $2 and $2.5 trillion depending on how you do the math, paid for by tax increases primarily falling on the corporate sector that actually spread out over 15 years, as opposed to the bill's spending, which spreads out over 10. That means the bill will be mildly stimulative to the economy on top of creating potentially new jobs through the direct spending that's going to happen.


The tax increases are focused largely on corporate America, higher corporate tax rate, changes in the way US taxes its multinational corporations, and other changes that come on the individual side, which will be primarily used to fund the second half of the plan, which is going to be focused on more of a human services element. These are things like education, healthcare, subsidies for daycare, universal pre-K, community college, and other things that the Biden administration contends have to be invested in to keep the American economy going. Now, these tax increases are going to be really controversial with Republicans, which means you're probably not going to see a lot of Republicans vote for this. But Democrats are pretty aligned around doing something big and meaningful in advance of the 2022 midterms. So both of these bills probably pass into law before the end of the year.

What's going on with the Georgia voter law?

Well, in the wake of a 2020 election, where President Trump claimed there was widespread fraud, Republican politicians are now moving across the country to roll back some of the expansions that were done during the coronavirus pandemic to make it easier to vote. In Georgia, this has meant curtailing the ability to vote on Sundays, it's meant requiring a photo ID, and it's meant limiting to some extent, the ability to apply for an absentee ballot. Most of these changes are rolling the voting rules back by a couple of years. This is not the apocalyptic changes that the Democrats have been claiming, but the Democrats are really motivated to stop all of this from happening because they want to open up voting and make it as easy as possible for their constituents to get out. They typically do better at higher turnout elections. Republicans typically do better in lower turnout elections.

So for Democrats this is really, for both parties, this is really considered an existential threat, and the voting rules are going to be a really important battleground over the next 12 to 18 months. At the federal level, the Democrats are pushing a bill, H.R. 1, that would fundamentally alter the way elections are conducted in this country, including by changing money in politics and eliminating partisan gerrymandering, by requiring each state to use a nonpartisan commission to draw the districts for the House of Representatives. If it passes, and I don't think it will because it would require today 60 votes in the Senate, but if it were to pass, it would be a big structural shift towards the Democrats in US elections.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

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Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

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India and Brazil are currently the world's top two COVID hotspots. But while India's crisis is — at least according to official statistics — a relatively recent one, Brazil's COVID disaster has been an ongoing train wreck. Where India seemed to have kept the pandemic under control until some bad missteps about two months ago, COVID has been wreaking havoc in Brazil almost constantly for over a year now. And President Jair Bolsonaro's macho-posturing and COVID denialism has clearly not helped. We take a look at average daily new cases and deaths in both countries since the pandemic began.

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

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28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

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India’s COVID crisis hits home

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