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Washington Report: May 8, 2020 … “America’s Open BUT Not Open”

08 May 2020

Washington Report: May 8, 2020 … “America’s Open BUT Not Open”

Obama Era Erased … 14.7% Unemployment … Political Fantasy vs. Economic Reality … Bright’s Reinstatement … 5 Bright Spots … A Modern Lynching … Guide To Reopening … Experiment In Human Sacrifice … 75th Anniversary … and other news of the week.
This is National Nurses Week … pay tribute to nurses, they are [s]heroes.
From my bunker,
JR
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners

P.S. 180 Days Till Election Day (November 3, 2020)
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The OBAMA ERA has all but been erased.

This morning’s news that 14.7% of the American workforce is now unemployed erases the last drops of Barack Obama’s economic legacy that seeped into the Donald Trump presidency — a steady decrease in the jobless rate from 10% in October 2009 to 3.5% in February of this year.

AND THIS
… The Senate returned this week for what Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer predicted would be “one of the strangest sessions of the United States Senate in modern history. WSJ “… returning to the Capitol this week, mostly masked and socially distanced, Senate Republicans devot[ed] much of their attention to a top pre-coronavirus priority: placing as many conservatives as possible on the nation’s federal courts.”
… Katie Miller, VP Pence’s press secretary, was notified Friday that she tested positive for coronavirus (she is asymptomatic).
… One of President Donald Trump’s personal valets, who works in the West Wing serving the president his meals, among other duties, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the closest the virus is known to have come to the president, a White House official said.
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Jobs: Political Fantasy Battles Economic Reality

Politico “The U.S. economy is sitting in its deepest hole since the Great Depression, with more than 33 million Americans losing their jobs in just seven weeks and an unemployment rate now at 14.7% — and likely to rise to around 20% — under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. And it’s likely to take years — perhaps much of the next decade — to dig out.

“President Trump is agitating for a rapid reopening of the U.S. economy to help reverse the damage quickly, hoping a swift bounce back would boost his reelection prospects in November. But the recovery is likely to be weighed down by severe damage to the private sector and a resistance to returning to the old normal, keeping the jobless rate still near 10% — the high of the Great Recession — by the end of 2021, a year into the next presidential term in office.”
THE APRIL EMPLOYMENT REPORT (just released) showed a loss of 20.5 million jobs and offered new details about the mounting devastation across the labor market, already previewed in off-the-charts weekly filings for jobless claims. But the full scale of the downturn is not yet clear.
Recent moves across the U.S. to roll back measures enacted to slow the spread of the deadly Covid-19 outbreak could backfire and make the economic decline longer and worse — putting some states on course for deepening economic turmoil into the summer. Polls continue to show Americans deeply uncomfortable with going back to anything resembling normal life. And they overwhelmingly fear fresh outbreaks, putting a lid on a significant recovery in consumer spending — let alone the rehiring it would eventually support — until much more virus testing and treatment is available.
“We have to be utterly realistic about this because there is political fantasy out there and then there is economic reality,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at consulting firm RSM. “It is going to be years before we recover all of these lost jobs and as much as 25 percent of them aren’t ever coming back.”

Trends

  • Some retail jobs are clearly not coming back. Iconic high-end department store Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday. J.Crew filed earlier this week. And concerns are rising over the viability of Lord + Taylor, JCPenney and numerous other retailers. In some ways, the Covid-19 crisis compressed what could have been several years of shifts to online retailers such as Amazon and Overstock into a period of weeks, meaning employees in many brick-and-mortar stores may need to retrain for new occupations.
  • Companies coming out of the crisis may also accelerate their reliance on technology to replace staff and reduce the amount of office space they need, slowing job gains and hurting the commercial real estate industry.
  • Industries writ large are going to have trouble reopening and others are going to figure out how to use technology to limit the number of people they rehire. This crisis has just accelerated all of these trends.”
  • Some environmentalists hail the cleaner air and the hits to the fossil fuel sector created by the coronavirus crisis. But even most liberals’ plans for a transition to cleaner energy sought to avoid wiping out current well-paid jobs without a plan for transitioning people to different kinds of work. None of those plans are in place.
  • And economists suggest that, as with retail, many of the oil and gas jobs will be vaporized — lengthening the time it will take to bring down overall unemployment.
  • Airline, leisure and hospitality jobs could also be very slow to return. United Airlines this week warned that it would have to sharply reduce staffing in the coming months and that its management and administrative teams could be cut by 30 percent. Other carriers are expected to follow suit. Economists suggest it could be years before business and personal travel returns to levels seen before the crisis.
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The Next Phase of America’s Virus Failure

Axios “Evidence is mounting that America is steamrolling toward a nightmarish failure to control the coronavirus. Why it matters: We made a lot of mistakes at the beginning. And despite a month of extreme social distancing to try to hit “reset,” a hurried reopening now raises the risk that we’ll soon be right back where we started. The [almost] dissolution this week of the Coronavirus Task Force is yet another sign that the administration is ready to move on — despite all of the indications that we’re not prepared. What we’re watching: The U.S. is still seeing around 30,000 new coronavirus cases a day — and that’s just the ones that we’re catching, because we’re still not testing enough people. The bottom line: We don’t have a treatment or a vaccine, and we’re about to loosen the reins on a virus we still don’t fully understand.”
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Shocking: Jared’s Young Consultant Army Was Clueless

Vanity Fair “Trump’s son-in-law’s volunteer team—pulled from private equity, venture capital and consulting firms—reportedly hampered efforts to procure medical supplies and prioritized political allies. … According to news reports and a recent whistleblower complaint, Kushner’s crack squad of young private sector volunteers has been beset by crippling incompetence and political cronyism, exacerbating the federal government’s gross mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis that has killed more than 76,000 in the United States.”

Bright’s Reinstatement?

Politico “A federal watchdog is recommending that ousted vaccine expert Rick Bright be temporarily reinstated while it investigates whether the Trump administration retaliated against his whistleblower complaints when it removed him from an agency overseeing coronavirus treatments. The Office of the Special Counsel is recommending that Bright be temporarily reinstated for 45 days as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a multibillion dollar agency overseeing millions in funding for coronavirus treatments, vaccines and tests.”
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Five Bright Spots

Atlantic “Amid the pandemic, focusing on five bright spots—small, largely positive shifts amid our current reshuffling of order.

1.Cities get an unprecedented chance to repair roads and bridges. “Empty streets are allowing construction crews to complete long-needed infrastructure projects at record speed,” our politics writer Russell Berman reports.
2. Air pollution is down. Of course, the drop is only temporary, but, “The cleaner air could lead to a brief respite in parts of the world with severe air pollution even as they battle the coronavirus.”
3. Cities are quieter. While more research is needed to understand the consequences of these particular circumstances, “it’s well established that noise pollution can negatively affect our health, contributing to stress-related ailments, high blood pressure, sleep disruption, and other problems.”
4. Food culture shucked its elitism. Ostentatious recipes are out; practical, inclusive cooking is in —and audiences can’t get enough.”
5. And people are rediscovering music’s power to build community. “Even if temporary, the turn toward communal listening has the air of something deep and primal,” … participation and inclusion are in.”
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Test, Trace, Isolate

Atlantic “Seven weeks ago, the United States and South Korea had the same number of coronavirus deaths. Now America’s toll measures +76,000, but South Korea’s remains under 300. The country’s successful flattening of its curve offers a rough sense of what’s working—and what post-peak life might look like.

How South Korea did it ? “… the country’s three-pronged strategy: TEST, TRACE, ISOLATE.”
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A Modern Lynching

theSkimm Ahmaud Arbery. Yesterday, authorities arrested two men in connection to his death. On February 23, Arbery – an unarmed 25-year-old black man – was jogging in a suburban neighborhood of Georgia when he was chased down and killed by a former police officer and his son, both of whom are white. The men claimed they thought Arbery looked like a burglar. And one prosecutor said they acted within the state’s citizen arrest laws. Arbery’s family lawyer called it a “modern lynching.” For months, no one was arrested. But this week, a video appearing to show the shooting was released publicly – sparking national outrage. Now, more than 10 weeks after Arbery’s death, police have arrested the two suspects and charged them with murder. It came the day before what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday. Supporters are running 2.23 miles today in his memory.” (No Words.)
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America Is Reopening

Atlantic “America is reopening, despite polling suggesting that the public is astonishingly united against it. According to one report, more than half of states have eased their public-health restrictions, with more soon to follow. Responsibility, now more than ever, lies with the individual. “The theme of the next chapter of the pandemic is choice.” You’ll be allowed to go places, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Americans now have to consider the risks to themselves and others, and make choices accordingly.”

To help you with this weighty calculus … experts  put together this guide to the dos and don’ts of reopening. Here’s a preview of what it covers—be sure to read the full thing for additional context:

  • Should I still stay six feet away from other people?
    Yes. As one expert put it: “Reopening does not mean we all get to be close together again, as hard as that is.”
  • Can I visit friends and family, and can I give them a hug?
    Experts say yes to the first question, “but cautiously, while maintaining social distance,” Joe writes—and preferably outdoors.That means no hugs. “
  • Can I drive or fly to other cities?
    “If you don’t have to leave your current location,you should stay put. If you urgently need to go somewhere, perhaps to see a loved one who’s dying, then by all means go.”

Georgia’s Experiment In Human Sacrifice

Atlantic “The state is about to find out how many people need to lose their lives to shore up the economy. … In the grips of a pandemic, the approach is a morbid experiment in just how far states can push their people. Georgians are now the largely unwilling canaries in an invisible coal mine, sent to find out just how many individuals need to lose their job or their life for a state to work through a plague. (Stay tuned …)

Open But Not Open

One sign of Americans’ anxiety about the virus: Even in some states that have started to reopen, many people have said, in effect, no thanks. In Alaska, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina — all states that have removed some restrictions — there has been little increase in the number of small businesses that are open or the amount of time people spend at work, according to an analysis by economists. Consumer spending has risen, but not by much more than in states that remain shut down. Related: “The reopening weekend was a disaster,” the C.E.O. of one Georgia business — an axe-throwing venue in Atlanta — told the publication Bisnow. “We had two customers all weekend.”
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Where Is The Remdesivir?

Axios “A breakdown in communication and coordination within the Trump administration has undermined the distribution of a promising coronavirus treatment. Why it matters: The drug, remdesivir, hasn’t made it to some of the hospitals where it’s most needed.

Administration officials have responded by trying to shift blame.

Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, donated hundreds of thousands of doses to the federal government after the FDA authorized it as an emergency treatment for coronavirus patients. More than 32,000 doses were delivered Tuesday to Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia. But many of the doses went to “less impacted counties,” an administration official said.

HHS was supposed to be the brains of the operation, using clinical expertise to allocate the drug to the places and hospitals around the country most in need, according a senior administration official, while FEMA was supposed to be the “arms and legs” putting that plan into action. But somewhere along the way, communication broke down.  Thousands of doses were maldistributed. But nobody was willing to put their name on the situation.”
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Flynn: From Confessed Felon To Scot-Free

Why Michael Flynn Is Walking Free (The Atlantic) … The former national security adviser figured out that loyalty to Trump is now a better bet than loyalty to the rule of law.
Michael Flynn was an early, instinctive Trumpist. The retired general was an enthusiastic backer of Donald Trump’s candidacy, leading chants of “Lock her up!” at the 2016 Republican National Convention. And his less public work bore the hallmarks of Trumpism too: brazen lying, shameless profiteering, conspiracy-mongering, and bigoted tweeting Nonetheless, Flynn didn’t immediately grasp how much the rules of the game changed when Trump won the 2016 election. When Flynn, the newly minted national security adviser, got in trouble with the law, he quickly took up the standard playbook of white-collar criminals in pre-Trump America. When the FBI caught him lying, Flynn copped a plea and agreed to cooperate with the government in exchange for a lesser sentence.
Only after that December 2017 plea deal did Flynn grasp the new reality: Cooperating with authorities might get you off easy, but staying loyal to the president will get you off entirely. So even though he’d already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, Flynn changed his mind, tried to withdraw his plea, and began fighting the prosecutors he’d promised to help tooth and nail.
It was a bold move, the sort of unorthodox strategy for which he’d become famous as an intelligence officer. And today it paid off, as the government moved to drop all charges against Flynn. The reversal, from confessed felon to scot-free, is a microcosm of how dramatically the rule of law has weakened during the Trump administration. …
If there is any doubt about the White House’s role, the president telegraphed the outcome of this case on April 30, when he was asked whether he’d pardon Flynn. Trump said he didn’t think he’d have to.

“Well, it looks to me like Michael Flynn would be exonerated based on everything I see,” he said. “Look, I’m not the judge, but I have a different type of power. But I don’t know that anybody would have to use that power.”
This wasn’t just good guessing—it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Trump-Barr Justice Department appears to have different standards based on one’s political allegiance: For Trump critics, such as former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and political opponents, such as the Biden family, it looks high and low for a way to investigate or prosecute, leaning on novel or untested legal theories. But for loyalists (even a prodigal loyalist such as Flynn), it offers the benefit of every doubt, or at least does its best to soften the penalties (as it did for Roger Stone).
Cooperation deals are supposed to show criminals that returning to the fold and honoring rule of law has its benefits. But the Flynn case shows that those benefits pale in comparison to honoring loyalty to Trump.”
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Turbocharging Telecommuting

Axios@Work “Many of us are entering the second full month of working from home — and growing steadily accustomed to the lifestyle. “Remote work has gone from an H.R.-level discussion to a C-suite-level discussion,” says Prithwiraj Choudhury, a professor at Harvard Business School. Staggering stat: Before the pandemic, less than 4% of American employees worked from home full time.

That has jumped to more than half, per Brookings. Among the top 20% of earners — who are more likely to have desk jobs that can be done from anywhere — that share is closer to 70%.

With many companies directing employees to work from home for the rest of the summer (or longer), lots of people are leaving urban hotspots, where coronavirus cases are concentrated.

If the trend sticks, it will start to reverse a century-long move toward urbanization.
Workspaces are transforming. The offices that workers eventually return to won’t look like those they left in March.
  • Tightly packed conference rooms and co-working spaces will — at least temporarily — give way to spread-out office layouts that allow for social distancing.
  • And as a greater share of Americans work remotely, look for builders of new houses to give more thought to the home offices.
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Campaign 2020

Eyes On Senate 2020

Axios “Democrats smell blood and have momentum in this year’s Senate and House races, Doug Sosnik, a former White House political director for President Clinton, writes in the latest of his popular “big thinks” political decks.

Here are the top lines from his Senate analysis: The big picture: Since President Trump’s election, Republicans have lost 42 House seats (and control of the House), 10 governorships, and well over 450 state legislative seats. Democrats have taken full control of government in 10 states.

– Since Trump was last on the ballot, the realignment of the parties has made it very difficult for Republicans to do well in swing and suburban areas.
The state of play: Democrats’ strong candidate recruitment and fundraising, combined with declines in Trump’s approval, have significantly increased the party’s chances of taking back the Senate this fall.

Republicans have nearly double the seats at risk — 23 to Democrats’ 12. The Cook Political Report rates eight Republican seats as either “toss-up” or “lean Republican,” with just one Democratic seat leaning Republican (Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-AL) seat is a likely GOP pickup).
The D math: If Joe Biden is elected, Democrats need to pick up a net of three seats to regain Senate control. Assuming an Alabama loss, Dems need to win four seats currently held by the GOP.
The R math: Four GOP seats (Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina) are considered most at risk.

The Golden State

BGov “All registered voters in California will receive a mail-in ballot for the November election, CNN reports, citing an announcement from Gov.Gavin Newsom. In-person voting for the election will remain an option: CNN
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75th Anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe

“The end of the European warfare, the greatest, bloodiest and costliest war in human history — it claimed at least 40 million casualties on both sides in killed, wounded and captured — came after five years, eight months and six days of strife that overspread the globe.”

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