Biden's massive, historic stimulus relief bill passes

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his perspective on the historic American Relief Act:

The American Relief Act just passed. Joe Biden's big $1.9 trillion stimulus has now passed the Senate and the House of Representatives and is on its way to the president's desk to be signed into law. This is a massive, historic piece of legislation on top of already $3 trillion in stimulus that Congress has provided to respond to the novel coronavirus. Here's another almost $2 trillion, that two thirds of which will be spent in this calendar year.



So, there's a couple of things we're watching. First, stimulus checks are going to start hitting Americans bank accounts as soon as next week. This will give additional spending power to a lot of Americans and probably helps make this bill a very popular piece of legislation. Second, there's a question over how many of these pieces that are in this bill will be extended in future acts. There's an expansion of the child tax credit, an expansion of the earned income tax credit, an expansion of unemployment insurance, which in the last crisis, in the global financial crisis, was extended 12 times by Congress in various acts. This round of unemployment benefits expires in September. We'll see if Congress wants to extend that again. Probably depends on how bad the unemployment situation is at the time.

Finally, one thing that's really important to watch for is inflation. This bill is so big and it's coming on top of an economy that looks like it's going to be red hot, with the economic reopening's happening in the spring as the coronavirus fades in the rearview mirror, that it could potentially be inflationary. This will be a problem because it could lead the Fed to tap the brakes, raise interest rates a little bit, and that would put downward pressure on Congress's ability to do a future stimulus bill in the form of an infrastructure bill, which Biden has said he wants to do in order to drive a green energy transformation. Now, that money will be spent over a longer period of time and very likely will be offset by tax increases. But any negative consequences coming out of this bill could potentially slow that bill down or shrink it in size. Overwhelming likelihood is, though, that this bill is going to help the economy a lot this year, going to get money to a lot of people who need it. And if they don't need it, they really want it. This could be a very popular piece of legislation that could potentially change the way the US does cash transfer payments to low-income households if those provisions are extended.

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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