Democrats need to be united to pass $3.5 trillion budget plan

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

What are the details of the Democrats' proposed $3.5 trillion budget blueprint?

Well, the Democrats this week in the Senate Budget Committee agreed to move forward with the plan to spend $3.5 trillion spread out over about 10 years on a huge portion of President Biden's Build Back Better Plan. This comes on top of a bipartisan agreement, at least in principle, on another $600 billion in physical infrastructure, which is roads, bridges, tunnels, repair, broadband deployment and a whole bunch of other physical infrastructure spending that Republicans and Democrats agree they want to do but aren't clear on how they want to pay for. But on the $3.5 trillion in spending, this is a lot of new social services, it's extending a number of tax subsidies that are going to low-income families and families with kids as part of the American Rescue Plan, which was the Biden stimulus bill that passed earlier in the year. It also includes money for two years of community college, universal preschool, and expands Medicare to cover things like dental benefits and other things that Medicare currently doesn't pay for.


So, this is a really big, ambitious plan. Democrats are excited about it because they think it's going to reshape, eliminate poverty for millions of Americans and reshape the role of the federal government and a lot of people's lives. However, the road to get there is long and challenging. And this next, in this part of the process is just one baby step forward. The next part of the process will be to pass a budget. And the budget process requires only 50 votes in the Senate and the simple majority in the House. But with Democrats slim margins in both, they can't really afford to lose even a single member. So, Democrats have to be totally unified to get this thing through. They can't expect a lot of support from Republicans. And the tension in the party is between progressives who want to spend a lot of money, Senator Bernie Sanders said he was looking to do over $6 trillion, and more moderate members, which is a sizable but silent group led by the very vocal senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, who says, this whole thing has to be paid for, there can be no deficit financing. Which means the Democrats can really only afford to spend the money they can raise. And while Biden has put forward $3.6 trillion in tax increases, a lot of those tax increases are politically untenable. And most analysts see there's a realistic range of about one to two trillion dollars in tax increases that are possible. If you combine that with some budget gimmicks and some fake spending cuts that have been floated in the bipartisan framework, plus, you give yourself a longer time frame for how you count the revenues that will finance some of the short-term spending, you can probably get there. But the Senate and the House are probably months away from resolution of this process. And the challenging part right now is going to be keeping everybody on board until the very end.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

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:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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