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Washington Report: May 22, 2020 … “Zoom Moms”
22 May 2020

Washington Report: May 22, 2020 … “Zoom Moms”

On The Hill … We Just Have “No Idea” … Bad News On Jobs … Pompeo’s Drip, Drip, Drip … Terrifying Virus Stats … Snake Oil … Zoom Moms … and other news of the week.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend.
JRJoyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners

On The Hill

Politico “The House will vote next week on a bipartisan proposal to make the popular small-business Paycheck Protection Program more flexible and extend the time limit for using the aid.
The Senate is on recess next week. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set up a full schedule for when lawmakers return in June … including work on the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill. The Senate put off action on a bipartisan proposal to extend the PPP and make other changes to the initiative before leaving yesterday.”

We Just Have ‘No Idea’

Politico “HAS THERE EVER BEEN this much uncertainty 165 DAYS before a modern-day presidential election? UNEMPLOYMENT is nearly 15% , and even the president’s top advisers say they expect it to rise. … CITIES, STATES AND MUNICIPALITIES have suggested they may have to lay people off if Congress doesn’t pass a new economic stimulus package. … REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS are split on whether they need to pass more aid. Some of the president’s allies say more aid is plainly unnecessary. Others want to wait. Others are calling for a massive public works program. …
… WE HAVE NO IDEA whether either party will be able to hold an in-person presidential nominating convention.
… COVID-19 has killed nearly 100,000 people, and we have no idea whether the outbreak will spike again in the fall. … WE HAVE NO IDEA whether it will be safe to go to polling locations to vote in November. … OR IF KIDS will be going back to school … WE HAVE NO IDEA if the federal government will back some sort of plan to bolster remote voting. … WE HAVE NO IDEA if the United States Postal Service will be solvent … A VACCINE could be on its way by the fall, but what’s Plan B if not?” Sigh.


WaPo “Students in the nation’s capital should not return to full, in-person learning until there is a reliable vaccine or cure for the novel coronavirus, according to recommendations released Thursday by a group of advisers appointed by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser.”

Bad News On Jobs

“2.4 MILLION more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total number of Americans out of work to 38 MILLION.
— WSJ: “The total doesn’t include hundreds of thousands of self-employed and gig-economy workers receiving unemployment benefits for the first time through a temporary coronavirus-related program. The omission of self-employed workers means the actual number of workers seeking claims has been higher since the federal program called pandemic unemployment assistance, included in a stimulus package approved in late March, got under way.”

Senate Confirms Unqualified DNI

Axios “The Senate confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) as the director of national intelligence in a 49-44 party-line vote on Thursday.  Ratcliffe, a vocal ally of President Trump, now heads an intelligence community that has faced consistent criticism from the president and is in the midst of political firestorms surrounding the prosecution of Michael Flynnand the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Ratcliffe will also be able to decide what documents are publicly released in expanding congressional investigations into Obama administration officials, especially Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive 2020 opponent. Worth noting: Ratcliffe’s predecessor, Dan Coats, was confirmed in 2017 with a 85-12 vote.

The backdrop: Trump previously floated nominating Ratcliffe for the position last year but backed off after senior congressional Republicans deemed him “unqualified” for the job due to his lack of intelligence experience.”


Drip, Drip Drip

Politico “Rep. Michael Pompeo was just three years into his national political career when he was tapped to join the panel to probe the killing of a U.S. ambassador in Benghazi — an investigation that ended up focusing intently on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Foggy Bottom, and Congress is beginning to take an intense interest in him.
TWO key House panels — the Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees — have sent a letter requesting documents of Pompeo and the State Department, probing a series of private dinners he hosted at the agency’s headquarters, and the replacement of the inspector general.
SAUDI ARMS SALE “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disregarded the advice of high-level officials at the State Department, Pentagon and within the intelligence community in invoking an emergency waiver last year to circumvent congressional review of billions of dollars in arms sales to the U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf region.  … That decision was under investigation by a government watchdog who was fired last week at Pompeo’s urging, and it has fueled renewed accusations from lawmakers that the Trump administration bucked the will of Congress and even violated the law when it fast-tracked the weapons sales. …

MORE … NYTs “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a secretive trip in January to a Florida retirement enclave populated by prominent Republican donors while on the tail end of a diplomatic trip to Latin America. He held the same kind of quiet meeting in December with Republican donors over a hotel dinner on a State Department trip to London. And last October, he huddled with Charles G. Koch, the Republican billionaire and a longtime supporter of his, while on an official visit to Kansas aboard a government aircraft.

“In each of those instances, Mr. Pompeo did not put the visits on his public schedule. … And they took place as Mr. Pompeo was considering a run for the Senate from his adopted home state of Kansas and as he nurtures plans for a presidential bid in 2024. Mr. Pompeo … has not tried to hide his political ambitions, but he has chosen not to disclose certain meetings that appeared to be linked to those plans while on taxpayer-funded trips.”


Terrifying Virus Stats

1. “If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died.” (NYT)
2. “Front-line health-care workers still experienced shortages of critical equipment needed for protection from the coronavirus into early May.” (WashPost)
3. “3 billion people around the world do not have a hand-washing facility with water and soap at home.” (World Bank)
4. “Confirmed coronavirus infections world-wide passed 5 MILLIION. The U.S. has recorded more than 1.57 million confirmed infections with a death of 94,661 (as of yesterday). (WSJ)
5. WHO warned that the pandemic is far from over. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that in the prior 24 hours, 106,000 new coronavirus cases had been reported to the United Nations health organization from around the world, the highest single-day total since the outbreak began. (WSJ)

Snake Oil*(aka hydroxycholorquine)

“Antimalarial drug touted by President Trump is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, study says,” WaPo “The study, published Friday in the medical journal the Lancet, is the largest analysis to date of the risks and benefits of treating covid-19 patients with antimalarial drugs. It is based on a retrospective analysis of medical records, not a controlled study in which patients are divided randomly into treatment groups — a method considered the gold standard of medicine. But the sheer size of the study was convincing to some scientists. … “For those given hydroxychloroquine, there was a 34% increase in risk of mortality and a 137% increased risk of a serious heart arrhythmias. For those receiving hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic — the cocktail endorsed by Trump — there was a 45% increased risk of death and a 411% increased risk of serious heart arrhythmias.”

Guinea Pigs

BGov “Dept. of Veterans Affairs gave hydroxychloroquine to 1,300 veterans in clinical trails despite known risks. “We need to know what the basis was for using this drug against the consensus of science, which calls into question its effectiveness in treating COVID-19,” Sen.Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
*Snake Oil comes from the 19th-century American practice of selling cure-all elixirs in traveling medicine shows. Snake oil salesmen would falsely claim that the potions would cure any ailments. Now-a-days it refers to fake products.(Urban Dictionary)

The Striking Racial Divide

NYT “More than 60% of nursing homes where at least a quarter of the residents are black or Latino have reported at least one coronavirus case, a NYT analysis shows. That is double the rate of homes where black and Latino people make up less than 5% of the population. And in nursing homes, a single case often leads to a handful of cases, and then a full-fledged outbreak. …The race and ethnicity of the people living in a nursing home was a predictor of whether it was hit with Covid-19. But the Times analysis found that the federal government’s five-star rating system, often used to judge the quality of a nursing home, was not a predictor. Even predominantly black and Latino nursing homes with high ratings were more likely to be affected by the coronavirus than were predominantly white nursing homes with low ratings, the data showed.”

Moving To The Burbs?

Bloomberg “One of New York’s biggest industries — finance — is considering shifting its workplaces away from city centers in the post-lockdown era. JPMorgan will keep its offices at half-occupancy for the “foreseeable future.” Goldman Sachs is opening its Paris office at 20% capacity on any given day. Citigroup is eyeing leases in the suburbs around New York.
What’s happening: “In the New York region, real estate brokers and landlords with suburban offices have seen a surge in interest from the finance industry, in addition to media and technology companies and law firms. There’s an overwhelming number of employees that need mass transit to access the urban environment. Nobody knows how that’s going to work in a social-distancing world,” Brandon Huffman, a manager at Rubenstein Partners, which owns office space in New Jersey and Connecticut, told Bloomberg.”

If It Could Happen To The Atlantic

Axios “COVID-19 has accelerated the shrinkage of journalism. Why it matters: If it could happen to The Atlantic, where 68 staffers were laid off today, it could happen to any media company. Hundreds of local, national and even international newsroom jobs have been axed, and student internships and fellowships have mostly been canceled. The bottom line: The Atlantic’s troubles, combined with the struggles at other billionaire-backed publications like the Los Angeles Times, serve as an important reminder that the industry has few sustainable paths forward without viable business models.”

FB Reimagining Post-Pandemic Workforce

Axios “During a town hall for Facebook employees yesterday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will move “in a measured way” toward a substantially remote work force — a hint of the profound post-pandemic changes that society has coming.

“I think we’re going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale,” Zuckerberg told Axios. “My prediction is that in 5-10 years we could have ~50% working remote. That’s not a target, just a prediction based on the demand we’ve seen so far. “The first steps,” Zuckerberg added, “will be aggressively opening up remote hiring around the whole U.S. and Canada, especially for experienced engineers, as well as letting some employees request to become permanent remote workers.”

What to watch: The result could reimagine not just Silicon Valley but other cities as companies expand hiring in places like Atlanta, Dallas and Denver, where Facebook plans to open “hubs” for new, mostly remote, hires. (AP)


Airlines Packing Them In

Axios “With restaurants and other businesses cut to half occupancy (or less), airlines are packing customers to near capacity.

Why it matters: The practice shows how a lack of a national policy allows certain companies — like airlines — to continue to put Americans at risk for exposure to COVID-19 while other companies miss out on revenue by adhering to local regulations. How it works: In March, most airlines reduced the number of flights by as much as 80% through the end of May. As travel has picked up, carriers have simply loaded new passengers onto the few remaining scheduled flights.   Airlines could reinstate laid off pilots and restart flights to accommodate newly increased demand, but have chosen not to.

What’s happening: Delta instituted a rule “capping seating at 50% capacity in first class and 60% capacity in the main cabin and keeping middle seats blocked.” American Airlines has a policy to “not assign 50% of main cabin middle seats or seats near flight attendant jump seats. But it is not enforcing that cap and has been operating flights with nearly every seat filled. United said it will allow passengers to rebook or receive a travel credit if they end up on flights that are close to full capacity.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee, sent a letter this week to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao urging her department to issue national social-distancing guidelines for aviation.
The big picture: Airline revenue was down 98% for the week ended May 10 compared to the year before, according to trade group Airlines for America. TSA agents screened 253,807 passengers Sunday — off 90% from a year ago.

Campaign 2020

“I honest to God don’t know who. I promise you right now.”

-Joe Biden to Stephen Colbert regarding his V.P. pick on CBS “The Late Show”

Campaign Finance Nuggets:

1. The biggest donors to Joe Biden’s super PAC are Anita and Joshua Bekenstine. Joshua is a managing partner at Bain and Company. They gave Unite the Country $500,000.

2. Senate Leadership Fund, the Republican super PAC run by allies of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, got $5 million from Charles Schwab and his wife, Helen.


Zoom Moms

Axios “She can’t be a soccer mom, because soccer’s canceled. She’s not a conventional security mom, since America’s biggest threat is now measured in microns.

In an election year defined by the coronavirus, the new voter to watch is the Zoom mom. Why it matters: The presidency may hinge on the women’s vote — how many white, suburban women who backed President Trump in 2016 will abandon him now, and how many women of color who stayed home four years ago will turn out for Joe Biden.

Women’s rapidly growing use of video calls to socialize means that’s where these conversations are now happening (sometimes with wine). FUN THING Though the sample size is small, our polling suggests a correlation between drinking and talking politics. More than half of the women who use video calls for happy hours say they’re also discussing politics.

So Zoom moms could do for this year’s campaigns what soccer moms did in 1996 and security moms did after 9/11.  …

During the pandemic, the share of Americans using video calls has swelled from less than half to around two-thirds, with women leading the way, says Chris Jackson of Ipsos Public Affairs.
Of women who say they participate in videoconferences each week, 40% are Democrats, 25% are Republicans and 36% are independents. “It’s middle- and upper-income women,” Jackson said. “Mothers, particularly, have a higher rate.”

Uh-Oh Moment in AZ

AZ Central “Arizona Sen. Martha McSally is sliding in the polls, dropping four percentage points in a month. McSally now trails Democrat Mark Kelly by 13 points, according to the latest tracking poll by OH Predictive Insights. While the April poll of 600 likely voters favored Kelly 51% to McSally’s 42%, in May it’s now 51%-38%. The poll shows independents breaking more than 2-1 for Kelly.

UC System Drops SAT/ACT

LATimes “In a decision that could reshape the nation’s college admissions process, University of California regents unanimously voted Thursday to suspend SAT and ACT testing requirements through 2024 and eliminate them for California students by 2025. The action by the nation’s premier public university system could mark a turning point in the long-running debate over whether the standardized tests unfairly discriminate against disadvantaged students or provide a useful tool to evaluate college applicants. After conflicting presentations by experts and lengthy debate, regents approved UC President Janet Napolitano’s five-year plan to ease out the SAT and ACT tests and develop the university system’s own assessment.”

Baby Bust

Axios “U.S. births continued to fall last year, leading to the fewest newborns in 35 years (AP). The CDC said births fell roughly 1% from 2018, to about 3.7 million. The decline continues a prolonged national “baby bust” that’s been going on for more than a decade. Some experts believe the pandemic will suppress the numbers further because of anxiety about the future.
The big picture: Aside from a one-year uptick in 2014, U.S. births have been falling every year since 2007, when the Great Recession hit.”

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