What About August Recess? … Minibus … The Product Of A Failed Covid Reponse: In 1 Graph … The Face of Coronavirus Ignorance … The U.S. Is A Wounded Giant … Masks In The Air … Final Tribute To Lewis … Final Words Of Lewis … Yes, Election Day Will Be On November 3rd. … Going To Mars … and other news of the week,
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What About August Recess?
Politico ‘Congress gets nowhere on stimulus’ — Seems certain now that expanded unemployment benefits will expire at the end of the day just as the labor market is showing new signs of slumping with the second week in a row of higher initial jobless claims after months of declines. There is no question allowing these benefits to expire will deliver a further blow to the economy. The expiration will mean less spending on food and other items and higher default rates. There are over 30 million Americans currently receiving some kind of jobless aid. Sucking a large amount of cash out of their pockets is going to hurt. And it will make the rosy V-shaped recovery idea seem even more implausible.
CBSNews “The House is canceling its traditional August recess, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced on Friday, as congressional negotiations over the next coronavirus relief legislation have reached an impasse. Hoyer said that the House would remain in session until a deal on a bill is reached. … It’s unclear whether the Senate will continue working through August as well.” ]
BGov “House passed a spending package that includes six annual appropriations bills … the fiscal 2021 spending package with $1.3t in discretionary funds would bar nuclear explosive testing and tie state and local grants to policing policy changes.
Measure includes Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Labor-HHS-Education, and Transportation-HUD funding
Democrats removed their controversial Homeland Security spending measure from the package, concerned progressive measures would be a difficult vote for swing-district members
NOTE: The White House has threatened to veto the measure and criticized provisions that would ban nuclear explosive testing, repeal authorizations for the use of military force, ban military action against Iran without congressional approval, and require masks on airlines and Amtrak trains.”
The Product Of A Failed Covid Response: In One Graph
Yesterday, the Commerce Department said the GDP (the value of goods and services produced in a certain time frame) shrank 9.5% in the second quarter of 2020 – the greatest drop ever. Axios “Why it matters: If it wasn’t clear before today, the economy is going to need support to dig its way out. And that assumes we don’t fall back in, which may already be happening as the coronavirus surge forces some states to clamp down again.
“The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus,” Fed chair Jerome Powell said yesterday. “It’s so fundamental.”
ZOOM OUT: When the U.S. shut down its economy and passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, a GDP contraction of this size was not out of the realm of possibilities, notes former Treasury official Tony Fratto. What nobody was projecting was that weekly unemployment claims would still be running at 1.4 million in July — the product of a failed coronavirus response. The state of play: The extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits under the CARES Act is set to expire TODAY, and Congress and the Trump administration are still painfully deadlocked over the next stimulus bill. The bottom line: More than 30 million unemployed Americans could see their incomes drop 50%–75%.
WSJ “The U.S. neared 4.5 million confirmed coronavirus infections today, with fatalities rising in some states, while areas that had brought outbreaks under control struggled to keep them that way. More than 67,500 new cases and at least 1,200 fatalities were reported on Thursday.
One Death Every Minute Of The Day
New infections appear to have peaked across the United States, but hospitalizations continue to rise, and the death toll is soaring. More than 1,400 coronavirus-related deaths were reported nationwide on Wednesday — roughly one fatality for every minute of the day. It was the worst day for covid-19 deaths in more than two months, as Florida, California, North Carolina and Idaho recorded single-day highs.
After learning that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) (see more below) tested positive for the coronavirus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made masks mandatory on the House floor. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged Pelosi to institute mandatory testing for lawmakers, a proposal that she and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had declined earlier this year.
The Face Of Coronavirus Ignorance
WaPo “No one puts a better face on the heedlessness and ignorance that have helped fuel the spread of the deadly coronavirus than Rep Louis Gohmert, the Texas congressman who has made it a political badge of honor not to wear a mask. That he tested positive for covid-19 seems to have made no impact on him as he continues the nonsense that puts others at risk and has made the United States a hot spot of the pandemic. Gohmert appeared in a video smiling, smugly referring to covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus” and absurdly blaming his diagnosis on his recent use of a mask. He has not experienced any symptoms, but that’s of little comfort to those who came into contact with him.
SAD NEWS Former Republican presidential candidate and ex-CEO of Godfather’s Pizza Herman Cain, 74, has died almost a month after being hospitalized for coronavirus. The big picture: Cain, the co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, was in a high-risk group due to his history with cancer. Cain’s positive coronavirus test came less than two weeks after he attended President Trump’s controversial June 20 campaign rally in Tulsa, where he tweeted a picture of himself without a mask.
The U.S. Is A Wounded Giant
THE BIG PICTURE — “A Viral Epidemic Splintering Into Deadly Pieces,”NYT “Each state, each city has its own crisis driven by its own risk factors: vacation crowds in one, bars reopened too soon in another, a revolt against masks in a third. … The New York Times interviewed 20 public health experts — not just clinicians and epidemiologists, but also historians and sociologists, because the spread of the virus is now influenced as much by human behavior as it is by the pathogen itself.
“Overall, the scientists conveyed a pervasive sense of sadness and exhaustion. Where once there was defiance, and then a growing sense of dread, now there seems to be sorrow and frustration, a feeling that so many funerals never had to happen and that nothing is going well. The United States is a wounded giant, while much of Europe, which was hit first, is recovering and reopening — although not to us.”
WAPO: “Young people are infecting older family members in shared homes,” by Lenny Bernstein: “As the death toll escalates in coronavirus hot spots, evidence is growing that young people who work outside the home, or who surged into bars and restaurants when states relaxed shutdowns, are infecting their more vulnerable elders, especially family members.
Masks In The Air
BGov “… Democrats in Congress, frustrated with what they say are inadequate protections against Covid-19 in air travel, introduced legislation to require the federal government to mandate face masks on flights and in airports. The bill, unveiled on Thursday, would also force the government to create a national aviation preparedness plan for epidemics — which is required under an international treaty but was never done in the U.S. — and to ramp up government-sponsored study of how infectious diseases are transmitted on airliners.
The law would authorize criminal penalties for passengers who disobey a flight crew’s instructions to wear a mask on a plane and sets civil fines for people who don’t wear masks in an airport. Democratic Senators including Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have endorsed a mask requirement, but it’s unclear whether such a bill could pass in the Republican-controlled chamber.
The legislation was endorsed by multiple industry groups and unions, including two trade groups representing U.S. airports, the American Association of Airport Executives and Airports Council International. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and the Air Line Pilots Association also support the measure.
The Transportation Department earlier this month issued guidelines for safe air travel that urge mask usage but stopped short of enacting a requirement. Officials have repeatedly said they don’t believe the Federal Aviation Administration has the legal authority to require passenger mask usage. The bill would give the agency such powers, according to a release from the committee.”
Final Tribute To Lewis
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were among those who spoke Thursday at John Lewis’ funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the sermons of pastor Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a 15-year-old Lewis to dedicate the next 65 years to fighting for civil rights. From President Obama (who delivered the eulogy): “When we do form that more perfect union, whether it’s years from now or decades, or even if it takes another two centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.”
Final Words From Lewis
In the NYT “to be published upon the day of his funeral”: “When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”
Trump’s Undermining Of The Postal Service
Axios “The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy “put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts,” the WashPost reports. Postal workers are warning “that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time.”
Why it matters: “The backlog comes as the president … has escalated his efforts to cast doubt about the integrity of the November vote, which is expected to yield record numbers of mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Politico “DeSantis touts the return of in-person classes as schools say they’ll go online” … “Florida’s largest school district will begin the fall semester with remote classes, joining others that are keeping campuses closed while the state works to beat back the coronavirus outbreak. Despite four large counties opting to shutter campuses, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran were unwavering in their confidence that brick-and-mortar schools will reopen their doors this fall. The DeSantis administration has said it will withhold state funding from schools that don’t physically open, but the Republican governor on Wednesday downplayed the possibility of districts actually losing funds.”
Axios “The full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear (on August 11th) whether it should accept the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in 2017 about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the Trump transition.”
Trump’s Spite-Germany Plan
WSJ “the Pentagon’s plan to withdraw almost 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany is far from a stroke of populist genius. It’s a blow to U.S. interests that won’t fulfill the cost-saving objective Mr. Trump claims to be concerned with. … [Trump] appears to be undermining America’s military position out of pique.”
Yes, Election Day Will Be On November 3rd. … Don’s Distraction
WaPo “When Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in April that President Trump might try to postpone the election and blame the coronavirus, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh dismissed his warning as “incoherent, conspiracy-theory ramblings” and added that the president “has been clear” the election would go on, no matter what, on Nov. 3.
Yet Trump floated postponing the election on Thursday, 96 days before the U.S. elections and minutes after the federal government released the worst quarterly economic data since at least 1875. The Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to regulate the “time, place and manner” of federal elections. A chorus of Republican legislative leaders promptly pushed back on the president’s trial balloon. They made clear that Election Day will not change this year.
“…Trump’s constant push to undermine public faith in U.S. elections has intensified as he’s sunk in the polls during the the coronavirus pandemic that’s killed at least 148,000 Americans. The idea of delaying the election, however, was a red line for some who were previously tolerant of Trump and his allies’ view of expansive presidential power.
‘Rigged Election’ goes from Trump Complaint To Campaign Strategy
Politico “Trump’s suggestion that he might try to delay the election — or might not accept the result — is rapidly coming to the forefront of the presidential campaign, foreshadowing a final stretch roiled not only by the coronavirus and the economy, but by clashes over the nation’s most fundamental democratic norms…. Democrats are already bracing for Republican challenges to absentee ballots and at vote counting on Election Day. They have good cause to be prepared: the president has repeatedly raised the prospect of a ‘rigged election’ and recently declined to say if he’ll accept the results.
Trump’s rhetoric points increasingly to the possibility that he will dispute the outcome in a year marked by primary election administration meltdowns — a prospect that is heightened by his absolute control of state and national party machinery and an attorney general who has amplified Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting fraud.”
‘Citizens United’ Legacy
America’s Elections Are Becoming Contaminated With Untraceable Cash,” Political donations by non-disclosing groups … have skyrocketed in recent years. During the 2018 election cycle, such groups provided roughly $178 million to federal political committees, according to data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2020, they’re on track to far surpass that total. By the end of June, non-disclosing groups had donated $177 million to federal political committees, per CRP data.
“The result, experts say, has been an erosion of fundamental rules governing American elections and the growing amounts of money spent to affect their outcomes. … The phenomenon is not confined to one political side or the other.” Daily Beast
Rove On … To Mars
Axios “NASA’s Perseverance rover launched on a journey to Mars Thursday to hunt for signs of past alien life on the Red Planet.
Why it matters: The rover is the third spacecraft lofted to Mars this month, with the first two sent by the United Arab Emirates and China. Some fun things: Perseverance is carrying 10.9 million names submitted by people to the Red Planet etched into three silicon chips. … The rover also comes equipped with a plate honoring the first responders on the frontlines of the novel coronavirus pandemic. … And a small helicopter called Ingenuity is hitching a ride to Mars to prove out new technology for future missions.”