Discover more from Letters from an American
August 16, 2023
[There is a discussion of rape in paragraph 12.]
Three big stories today. First of all, the Democrats are taking a victory lap on the anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a law that has transformed the U.S. economy and for which not a single Republican voted.
The IRA was the eventual form President Joe Biden’s initial “Build Back Better” plans took. It offered to lower Americans’ energy costs with a 30% tax credit for energy-efficient windows, heat pumps, or newer models of appliances; capped the cost of drugs at $2,000 per year for people on Medicare; and made healthcare premiums fall for certain Americans by expanding the Affordable Care Act.
By raising taxes on the very wealthy and on corporations and bringing the Internal Revenue Service back up to full strength so that it can crack down on tax cheating, as well as saving the government money by permitting it to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, the IRA was expected to raise $738 billion. That, plus about $891 billion from other sources, enabled the law to make the largest investment ever in addressing climate change while still bringing down the federal government’s annual deficit.
“This is a BFD,” former President Barack Obama tweeted a year ago.
“Thanks, Obama,” Biden responded.
The law has driven significant investment in U.S. manufacturing. Indeed, the chief executive officer of U.S. Steel recently said the law should be renamed the “Manufacturing Renaissance Act,” as manufacturers return previously offshored production to the U.S. That same shift has brought supply chains back to the U.S. These changes have meant new, well-paid manufacturing jobs that have been concentrated in Republican-dominated states and in historically disadvantaged communities.
Scientists Alicia Zhao and Haewon McJeon, who recently published an article in Science, today wrote that the IRA “brings the US significantly closer to meeting its 2030 climate target [of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 50–52% below 2005 levels], taking expected emissions from 25–31% below 2005 levels down to 33–40% below.”
While Republican presidential candidates took shots at the IRA today—former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley called it “a communist manifesto”—Democrats have pointed out that Republicans have been eager to take credit for IRA investments in their districts without mentioning either that they voted against the IRA or that they are still trying to repeal it.
If the Democrats are taking a victory lap for passing this transformative law a year ago, the second big story today showed the effort to steal the 2020 presidential election was fully formed earlier than had been established previously. That story came from MSNBC’s Ari Melber, who revealed a video taken by Danish filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen of Trump ally Roger Stone plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election on November 5, 2020, two days before the election was called for President Biden.
In the video, Stone dictated to an associate a statement saying that “any legislative body may decide on the basis of overwhelming evidence of fraud to send electors to the Electoral College who accurately reflect the president’s legitimate victory in their state, which was illegally denied him through fraud. We must be prepared to lobby our Republican legislatures…by personal contact and by demonstrating the overwhelming will of the people in their state—in each state—that this may need to happen,” he said.
This video, recorded while the election was not yet decided, recalls the statement of Trump ally Steve Bannon, who told a group of associates on October 31, 2020—before the election—that Trump simply planned to declare he had won, claiming that the expected wave in favor of Biden was fraudulent. “What Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory. Right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner,” Bannon said. “He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.”
The third big story of today shows how Trump Republicans think about women. It hits hard in the wake of this week’s story in Time magazine of the 13-year-old Mississippi girl who just gave birth after being raped by a stranger in her yard. She was unable to obtain an abortion because of Mississippi’s abortion ban. She is scheduled soon to start seventh grade.
Yesterday, far away from the home of that Mississippi girl, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit handed down a decision about the use of the abortion drug mifepristone in the case of Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Last year, as soon as the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion, antiabortion doctors tried to get mifepristone taken off the market by arguing that the FDA should never have approved it when it did so in 2000. The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine was incorporated just after last June’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision overturned Roe v. Wade.
In April 2023, Trump appointee and longtime abortion opponent Texas judge Matthew Kacsmaryk issued a preliminary ruling invalidating that approval. The federal appeals court yesterday said the drug should be legal, but significantly limited its use by saying it could not be sent through the mail or prescribed without an in-person visit to a doctor, cutting midwives and other healthcare providers out of the process.
Judge James Ho, who was sworn into office by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow’s library in 2018 (Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz was also there), wrote his own opinion in the case in order to expand on what he sees as “the historical pedigree of Plaintiffs’ conscience injury, and to explore how Plaintiffs suffer aesthetic injury as well.”
Antiabortion doctors suffer a moral injury when they are forced to help patients who have complications from the use of mifepristone, Ho wrote, because they are forced to participate in an abortion against their principles.
Those doctors also experience an aesthetic injury when patients choose abortion because, as one said, “When my patients have chemical abortions, I lose the opportunity…to care for the woman and child through pregnancy and bring about a successful delivery of new life.” Indeed, Ho wrote, “It’s well established that, if a plaintiff has ‘concrete plans’ to visit an animal’s habitat and view that animal, that plaintiff suffers aesthetic injury when an agency has approved a project that threatens the animal.”
In cases where the government “approved some action—such as developing land or using pesticides—that threatens to destroy…animal or plant life that plaintiffs wish to enjoy,” that injury “is redressable by a court order holding unlawful and setting aside the agency approval. And so too here. The FDA has approved the use of a drug that threatens to destroy the unborn children in whom Plaintiffs [that is, the antiabortion doctors] have an interest.”
“Unborn babies are a source of profound joy for those who view them,” Ho wrote. “Expectant parents eagerly share ultrasound photos with loved ones. Friends and family cheer at the sight of an unborn child. Doctors delight in working with their unborn patients—and experience an aesthetic injury when they are aborted.”
The decision will be on hold until the appeals process is completed.
(Ho’s argument begins on p. 64.)