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Has U.S. Democracy Been Trumped? Bernie Sanders wants to know who owns America?

#15001 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2020-March-22, 21:29

View Posty66, on 2020-March-22, 21:09, said:

From David Leonhardt at NYT:


FAKE NEWS from the lying New York Times

1. You know who was president in 1940? Donald J Trump!
2. And who was this Knudsen guy? Jared Kushner was in charge of mobilizing the war effort!
3. And what's this "Nazis" garbage? We have always been at war with East Asia.
Alderaan delenda est
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#15002 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 02:58

Governors and mayors in growing uproar over Trump’s lagging coronavirus response

Quote

Gaynor’s remarks directly contradicted what Trump told reporters on Friday, when he said he had “invoked” the law and “put it into gear” — and were coupled with vague optimism about corporate America’s ability to do what is necessary without being compelled by an executive order.

“We haven’t yet,” Gaynor said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” when asked whether Trump has ordered companies to make supplies. He described the Defense Production Act as “leverage” as the administration moves forward and said, “If it comes to a point we have to pull the lever, we will.”

Obviously the Grifter in Chief has invoked the Defense Production Act. I'll bet most of you didn't know that this Act was a manual shift Act, and it has a neutral and reverse gear. Who knew that this would be so difficult??? As soon as the Manchurian President figures out how to shift into one of the forward gears, watch out and be prepared to be amazed B-)
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#15003 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 03:06

OMFG!!! :o This one defies comment by me:

Trump Repeats Latest Bonkers Fox News Coronavirus Claims In Midnight Rant

Quote

Hilton played a clip of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, saying he was fine if people think the response to the virus was an overreaction.

“Well, that’s easy for him to say,” Hilton said. “He’ll still have a job at the end of this, whatever happens.”

Hilton added:

“Our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces whipping up fear over this virus, they can afford an indefinite shutdown. Working Americans can’t, they’ll be crushed by it. You know that famous phrase, ‘The cure is worse than the disease?’ That is exactly the territory we are hurting towards.”

Hilton calculated that an economic shutdown in response to the virus would lead to a recession that could kill 1 million Americans.

“Poverty kills. Despair kills. This shutdown is deadly,” Hilton said. He then urged Trump to reassess the plan within 15 days. After that, it would be time to stop the shutdown while keeping in place bans on large gatherings and measures to protect the elderly.

Shortly after the segment aired, Trump tweeted:

WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!


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#15004 User is online   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 06:05

Concerning Trump v HRC, Max Boot (longtime Republican who switched parties in 2017) has some strong notions: https://www.washingt...linton-had-won/

Quote

I weep in anger and frustration imagining what might have been if Hillary Clinton — a sane, sensible adult — had won. We couldn’t have avoided the coronavirus, but we could have ameliorated its effects. We could be South Korea (102 deaths) rather than Italy (4,825 deaths and counting).

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter. / "I need ammunition, not a ride." Zelensky
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#15005 User is online   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 07:05

View Posthrothgar, on 2020-March-22, 18:44, said:

Let's see, at the most basic level I suspect that HRC would have treated this as a health crisis rather than a public relations problem. However, if you want to get more specific

1. HRC might have actually made use of the Pandemic Response team that the government created after the Ebola outbreak rather than trusting the response to Trump's idiot son-in-law. In a similar vein, I doubt that HRC would have fired the CDC employee who we had working in China tracking infectious disease outbreaks.

https://www.reuters....k-idUSKBN21910S

2. Back in January, when coronavirus was largely contained in China, Joe Biden gave a speech identifying this as a significant danger. If the US had started a more comprehensive testing regime at this point in time, coupled with the sorts of efforts that South Korea and Singapore used to break the infection chain we'd be in enormously better shape.

3. The Trump administration has failed completely at prioritizing the production of testing kits, ventilators and masks. They also blocked the US from using the WHO's tests. Trump still hasn't used any of the powers that the Defense Production Act vests in the Presidency.

4. Trump consistent downplayed the dangers of the virus even when it was clear that countries that failed to implement social distancing were experiencing geometric growth. He was referring to this all as a conspiracy up until roughly a week ago when he started claiming that he was a wartime president

5. Trump's press conferences are atrocious. He is an incoherent mess. He is making ***** up. Almost every time he speaks, the markets crater even more.

6. He just mocked the fact that Senator Romney had to go into self-quarantine


I would add
7. He ignored his own intelligence community who warned him early that the pandemic would affect the U.S.
8. He is advised by people like Sean Hannity rather than asking for expert advice.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter. / "I need ammunition, not a ride." Zelensky
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#15006 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 08:44

View Postkenberg, on 2020-March-22, 15:47, said:

It's not that I never make a mistake, far from it, but if I were standing in front of a camera addressing the nation on a matter of great importance, I would try not to say things that are dazzlingly stupid.

It's not just when he's speaking extemporaneously, either. When he was giving his Oval Office address about the pandemic, he made several huge misstatements even though he was reading from a prepared script.

Trump really doesn't care how he sounds, because his base is just as ignorant as he is. All he has to do is seem confident and they go along with it. They distrust scientists and other "elites", Trump seems like one of them. When he talks, it reminds them of grandpa talking about the "good old days".

#15007 User is online   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 12:55

View Postbarmar, on 2020-March-23, 08:44, said:

It's not just when he's speaking extemporaneously, either. When he was giving his Oval Office address about the pandemic, he made several huge misstatements even though he was reading from a prepared script.

Trump really doesn't care how he sounds, because his base is just as ignorant as he is. All he has to do is seem confident and they go along with it. They distrust scientists and other "elites", Trump seems like one of them. When he talks, it reminds them of grandpa talking about the "good old days".


From what I have read, his prepared remarks were written by Miller and Kushner. Is it any wonder facts were in short supply?
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter. / "I need ammunition, not a ride." Zelensky
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#15008 User is offline   shyams 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 18:55

I must say the daily briefings of your Great President are insane.

In normal times, it would not have mattered much as to who you have as President. It is in times of stress that the true leadership of the holders of important offices comes to the forefront. And I must say the current holder of that important office is literally a clown. Oh the misery!

PS: According to betting odds, he is as likely to be elected to a second term as of Biden becoming the next President.
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#15009 User is online   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 20:45

I am so relieved. From the $500 million slush fund the Senate Republicans are trying to pass as part of the response to the Coronavirus, Donald Trump said today the he would be the oversight as to who would get that money. :ph34r: Wow. Good to know. It might otherwise have gone to deserving working people. <_<
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter. / "I need ammunition, not a ride." Zelensky
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#15010 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 21:29

From the NYT Editorial Board:

Quote

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky failed to do his job this weekend. As the economy spiraled downward, Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said he would produce a bipartisan bailout bill authorizing an infusion of desperately needed aid.

Instead, Mr. McConnell emerged on Sunday evening with a bill that would provide a lot of help for corporate executives and shareholders, and not nearly enough for American workers. It would let the Treasury Department hand out hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations — potentially including businesses owned by President Trump — without requiring a binding commitment to preserve jobs and wages. And the bailouts could remain secret for six months.

Senate Democrats, refusing to play along, blocked the bill in a procedural vote on Sunday night and again on Monday afternoon. But responsibility for the deadlock rests squarely on Mr. McConnell’s shoulders.

The Federal Reserve unveiled a new set of needed programs to support the economy on Monday morning, expanding its “whatever it takes” crisis response. The operational independence of the central bank is once again proving its value, but Congress must resist the inclination to treat the Fed’s actions as an alternative to fiscal policy. Instead, senators must emulate the Fed’s urgency and authorize a set of supersize economic rescue programs.

There is a clear path forward. The proposal backed by Senate Republicans includes a number of critical elements that enjoy broad support, including a $350 billion rescue fund for small business and a plan to send cash, totaling $250 billion, to most households.

But the urgency of the moment does not justify the egregious misuse of public resources.

The basic formula for helping businesses is straightforward. The federal government needs to provide the money that companies are unable to earn or borrow because of the pandemic. In exchange, companies need to maintain employment and wage payments. That’s the necessary grand bargain — the standard any bailout package should be required to meet.

The Republican bill would let small businesses borrow up to $10 million, and those loans would then be forgiven for any business that avoided cuts in jobs or wages. That’s a fair deal.

But Republicans are proposing different rules for big businesses. Recipients of government bailouts would be required to avoid job or wage cuts only “to the extent practicable” — a loophole so large it amounts to a lack of any meaningful obligation.

The bill would create a $500 billion bailout fund for corporations. Most of the money would backstop the Federal Reserve’s broad-based emergency lending programs, but the Treasury would also get $75 billion for targeted bailouts. The Treasury undoubtedly needs resources and flexibility to confront the crisis. But it would be unpardonable folly for Congress to grant too much latitude to an administration that has repeatedly proved itself to be a careless steward of public resources. To take just one example, the bill would let the Treasury bail out hotels owned by Mr. Trump on whatever terms his administration might care to dictate — and Mr. Trump refused on Sunday night to pledge that he would refrain from taking any federal aid.

Senate Democrats want more from Republicans in other areas, too. They are pushing to deliver more funding for health care, and for state and local governments, and to expand unemployment benefits. These are worthy goals that deserve bipartisan support. Bringing the spread of the coronavirus under control remains the single best way to limit damage to the economy, and health care providers and local governments are on the front lines and running low on money. The need extends beyond public health: The crisis threatens the viability of critical public services, including mass transportation systems. And expanding benefits for unemployed workers would provide aid to those who need it most.

In each of these areas, however, the path to a compromise is straightforward, and something is clearly better than nothing. This is the third coronavirus bailout bill. There will be a fourth.

But what is the point of passing a bailout that does not protect jobs and wages?

Republicans can quickly resolve this standoff by accepting the necessary changes to protect the public interest. Alternatively, the Senate could table the big-business bailout. Boeing, the major airlines and other companies clamoring for help simply do not need federal assistance with the same urgency as small businesses and individual workers do — particularly because the Fed in recent days has stepped in to help big companies borrow money.

Or the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, could help Mr. McConnell do his job by passing a bill containing the necessary compromises and sending it to the Senate for approval.

The federal government is already lagging badly in its response to the coronavirus crisis. People are losing their jobs, and their businesses, with every passing day. It is time to act.

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again -- Richard Ford in The Sportswriter
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#15011 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2020-March-23, 22:00

From Paul Krugman at NYT:

Quote

If you want a quick summary of the state of play over fiscal stimulus legislation, here it is: Republicans insist that we should fight a plague with trickle-down economics and crony capitalism. Democrats, for some reason, don’t agree, and think we should focus on directly helping Americans in need.

And if legislation is stalled, as it appears to be as I write this (although things change fast when we’re on Covid time), it’s because Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is holding needy Americans hostage in an attempt to blackmail Democrats into giving Donald Trump a $500 billion slush fund.

First, let’s talk about the nature of the economic crisis we face. At the worst point in the 2007-2009 recession, America was losing around 800,000 jobs per month. Right now, we’re probably losing several million jobs every week.

What’s causing these job losses? So far it’s not what usually happens in a recession, when businesses lay off workers because consumers aren’t spending enough. What we’re seeing instead are the effects of social distancing: restaurants, entertainment venues and many other establishments have been closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

And we neither can nor should bring those jobs back until the pandemic has faded. What this tells us is that right now our highest priority isn’t job creation, it’s disaster relief: giving families and small businesses that have lost their incomes enough money to afford necessities while the shutdown lasts. Oh, and providing generous aid to hospitals, clinics and other health care providers in this time of incredible stress.

Now, while social distancing is currently driving employment destruction, there will eventually be a second, more conventional round of job losses as distressed families and businesses cut back on spending. So there is also a case for stimulus to sustain overall spending — although helping Americans in need will provide much of that stimulus, by also helping them continue to spend.

So what’s in the stimulus bill that McConnell is trying to ram through the Senate? It grudgingly provides some, but only some, of the aid Americans in distress will need. Funny, isn’t it, how helping ordinary Americans is always framed as a “Democratic demand”? And even there the legislation includes poison pills, like a provision that would deny aid to many nonprofit institutions like nursing homes and group homes for the disabled.

But it also includes a $500 billion slush fund for corporations that the Trump administration could allocate at its discretion, with essentially no oversight. This isn’t just terrible policy; it’s an insult to our intelligence.

After all, it would be hard to justify giving any administration that kind of power to reward its friends and punish those it considers enemies. It’s almost inconceivable that anyone would propose giving such authority to the Trump administration.

Remember, we’ve had more than three years to watch this administration in action. We’ve seen Trump refuse to disclose anything about his financial interests, amid abundant evidence that he is profiting at the public’s expense. Trump’s trade war has been notable for the way in which favored companies somehow manage to get tariff exemptions while others are denied. And as you read this, Trump is refusing to use his authority to require production of essential medical gear.

So it would be totally out of character for this administration to allocate huge sums fairly and in the public interest.

Cronyism aside, there’s also the issue of competence. Why would you give vast discretionary power to a team that utterly botched the response to the coronavirus because Trump didn’t want to hear bad news? Why would you place economic recovery efforts in the hands of people who were assuring us just weeks ago that the virus was contained and the economy was “holding up nicely”?

Finally, we’ve just had a definitive test of the underlying premise of the McConnell slush fund — that if you give corporations money without strings attached they will use it for the benefit of workers and the economy as a whole. In 2017 Republicans rammed through a huge corporate tax cut, which they assured us would lead to higher wages and surging business investment.

Neither of these things happened; instead, corporations basically used the money to buy back their own stock. Why would this time be any different?

As I write this, Republicans are ranting that Democrats are sabotaging the economy by refusing to pass McConnell’s bill — which is a bit rich for those who remember the G.O.P.’s scorched-earth opposition to everything Barack Obama proposed. But in any case, if McConnell really wants action, he could get it easily either by dropping his demand for a Trump-controlled slush fund or by passing the stimulus bill House Democrats are likely to offer very soon.

And maybe that will happen within a few days. As I said, we’re now living on Covid time. But right now Republicans seem dead set on exploiting a crisis their own president helped create by his refusal to take the pandemic seriously.

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again -- Richard Ford in The Sportswriter
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#15012 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2020-March-24, 14:24

View Posthrothgar, on 2020-March-22, 18:44, said:

4. Trump consistent downplayed the dangers of the virus even when it was clear that countries that failed to implement social distancing were experiencing geometric growth. He was referring to this all as a conspiracy up until roughly a week ago when he started claiming that he was a wartime president

If the Grifter in Chief is actually a wartime president, what side is he on? Maybe he had a deep state plan to siphon hundreds of millions from the Coronavirus Relief Bill?
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#15013 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2020-March-24, 15:15

View Postshyams, on 2020-March-23, 18:55, said:

I must say the daily briefings of your Great President are insane.

Just for the record, that should be "Greatest President in US History", "Amazingly Best President", "Dear God President", etc. You can also call him the "Great Dotard" which I have heard is a very complimentary and statesmanlike compliment.
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#15014 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2020-March-25, 02:28

The right fringe never ceases to surprise me

‘I’d Rather Die’: Glenn Beck Urges Older Americans To Work Despite Coronavirus

Quote

TV and radio personality Glenn Beck is urging older Americans to return to work to keep the economy going despite the coronavirus infection risks.

Younger people, he said, could stay home to protect themselves from the virus that causes COVID-19 while older people ― who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are more prone to the most serious cases ― should keep working.

“I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working,” he said in comments posted online by Media Matters. “Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country.”

As the saying goes, you can't make this sh*t up.
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#15015 User is offline   Trinidad 

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Posted 2020-March-25, 07:39

View Postjohnu, on 2020-March-25, 02:28, said:

The right fringe never ceases to surprise me

‘I’d Rather Die’: Glenn Beck Urges Older Americans To Work Despite Coronavirus


As the saying goes, you can't make this sh*t up.

The line that separates heroics from stupidity is very thin.

Of course, it is all fine that Mr Beck dies if he wishes to do so, but unfortunately, he will kill a few anonimous others with his actions too.

Difficult choice... Save lives, or get my grandkids an iPhone.

Rik
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#15016 User is online   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-March-25, 07:57

View Postjohnu, on 2020-March-25, 02:28, said:

The right fringe never ceases to surprise me

‘I’d Rather Die’: Glenn Beck Urges Older Americans To Work Despite Coronavirus


As the saying goes, you can't make this sh*t up.


John, I have a problem with your descriptors: "fringe" right contains 63 million who voted Trump. Let's call them what they are: the "suckers" on the right.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter. / "I need ammunition, not a ride." Zelensky
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#15017 User is online   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-March-25, 07:59

View Postjohnu, on 2020-March-24, 15:15, said:

Just for the record, that should be "Greatest President in US History", "Amazingly Best President", "Dear God President", etc. You can also call him the "Great Dotard" which I have heard is a very complimentary and statesmanlike compliment.


I believe the proper pronouncement now is: Hail, hail all great and glorious Dotard!
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter. / "I need ammunition, not a ride." Zelensky
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#15018 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2020-March-25, 08:39

From Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg:

Quote

Let’s hear it for Congress!

I don’t get to write all that many positive items these days, but here’s one. Phase Three — the whopping $2 trillion bill to bail out the economy from the pandemic — is done. As I write this, lawmakers are finalizing the legislative language, and they still need votes in the Senate and House and the president’s signature. But it appears that the deal reached by congressional leadership and the Trump administration is complete. This means that Congress will have met an unprecedented challenge by passing three bills with unusual speed.

We shall see, of course, how effective any of this is. I am not an economist; I can only talk about the process, and I’ll leave it to others to assess whether this is good policy — other than to say that it probably beats doing nothing. There’s little question that a Phase Four and probably a Phase Five bill will still be needed. And no one thinks this will be enough to prevent a damaging recession, or to position the economy for a rapid return to health once the threat of the coronavirus diminishes enough to allow for that.

Still, for a political system that’s often accused of being hopelessly unable to deal with problems, the speed here and the scale of the bill are truly impressive. Yes, they were hoping to have it done over the weekend and they didn’t finish until after midnight Tuesday, but this is complex stuff. The truth is that many politicians involved have serious legitimate differences over which policies will achieve the best results, and others are representing constituencies that have genuinely clashing interests. It’s simply not true that if it weren’t for lawmakers' partisan and personal self-interests all of this would be easy. On the contrary: Healthy representation may look chaotic, but when done correctly it can allow obscure groups and interests to have a seat at the table in national policy making.

Kudos are in order. Democrats could have sat on their hands, hoping that national disaster would harm the president and help them in November. Instead, they took the lead on the previous bills, and on this one pushed for aid to hospitals, state and local government, and to workers through more robust unemployment payments, in each case securing far more than was in the Republican-written original bill. They did that knowing that Trump will be able to claim credit for all of it, and that Republicans did not act as cooperatively in 2009 during the economic crash when Barack Obama was in the White House, and that they would have to support bailouts that many of them strongly oppose for big companies.

Congressional Republicans deserve credit, too. A $2 trillion government spending bill isn’t what they came to Washington to do. Nor are a lot of the specifics in the bill — thus those items getting added only after Democrats insisted on them. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell didn’t have an easy hand to play, given the difficulties in negotiating with this White House and the various preferences of Senate Republicans. And while I’ve been critical of some of his partisan rhetoric as the deal-making continued, I do give him credit for setting an early deadline and pushing to get the bill done.

And, yes, it appears that the White House and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin played a mostly constructive role this time.

I’d say three cheers for all concerned, but I’ll hold off on that until we get the details, which are sure to contain all sorts of interesting provisions. I’m not averse to some goodies inserted to sweeten any legislation for those who have to cast tough votes, but we won’t know for a while exactly how many of those there are. We also don’t know yet how well the mechanisms designed to insure oversight of corporate bailouts will work, or for that matter how well any of the provisions will function. I still do think that McConnell grandstanded unnecessarily, and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi was wrong in failing to keep the House in Washington for the duration of this crisis. And of course the bill hasn’t actually passed yet.

For now, however, it’s good to see that at least in an emergency Congress is capable of large, rapid action.

From 5 Key Things in the $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package by Catie Edmondson at NYT:

Quote

  • Lawmakers agreed to provide $1,200 in direct payments to taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 per year before starting to phase out and ending altogether for those earning more than $99,000. Families would receive an additional $500 per child, in an attempt to create a safety net for those whose jobs and businesses are affected by the pandemic.
  • Lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that would extend jobless insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits. At the insistence of Democrats, the program was broadened to include freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers, such as Uber drivers.
  • The bill provides federally guaranteed loans available at community banks to small businesses that pledge not to lay off their workers. The loans would be available during an emergency period ending June 30, and would be forgiven if the employer continued to pay workers for the duration of the crisis.
  • Loans for distressed companies would come from a $425 billion fund controlled by the Federal Reserve, and an additional $75 billion would be available for industry-specific loans — including to airlines and hotels. The creation of the Federal Reserve fund was one of the chief sticking points in the negotiations, as grim memories of the 2008 Wall Street bailout — which activists in both parties came to regard as a flawed program that benefited rich corporations at the expense of American workers — hung over the negotiations. Democrats successfully pressed for immediate disclosure of the recipients and stronger oversight, including installing an inspector general and congressionally appointed board to monitor it. Companies that benefit could not engage in stock buybacks while they received government assistance, and for an additional year after that. Democrats also secured a provision ensuring that Trump family businesses — or those of any other senior government officials — cannot receive loan money through that fund, though they could potentially still benefit from other parts of the bill.
  • The agreement includes $100 billion for hospitals and health systems across the nation, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, told Democrats in an early morning letter. It also includes billions more, he said, to furnish personal and protective equipment and increased health care for workers, testing supplies, and new construction to house patients.

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#15019 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2020-March-25, 21:14

From Dan Diamond and Nahal Toosi at Politico:

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The Trump administration, state officials and even individual hospital workers are now racing against each other to get the necessary masks, gloves and other safety equipment to fight coronavirus — a scramble that hospitals and doctors say has come too late and left them at risk. But according to a previously unrevealed White House playbook, the government should’ve begun a federal-wide effort to procure that personal protective equipment at least two months ago.

“Is there sufficient personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who are providing medical care?” the playbook instructs its readers, as one early decision that officials should address when facing a potential pandemic. “If YES: What are the triggers to signal exhaustion of supplies? Are additional supplies available? If NO: Should the Strategic National Stockpile release PPE to states?”

The strategies are among hundreds of tactics and key policy decisions laid out in a 69-page National Security Council playbook on fighting pandemics, which POLITICO is detailing for the first time. Other recommendations include that the government move swiftly to fully detect potential outbreaks, secure supplemental funding and consider invoking the Defense Production Act — all steps in which the Trump administration lagged behind the timeline laid out in the playbook.

https://www.politico...-council-149285

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Posted 2020-March-27, 06:22

From Edward Luce at FT (March 26):

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Within 48 hours, America’s coronavirus infections will surpass China’s total. The US will probably replace Italy as the centre of the pandemic. At just the moment Britain dropped its flirtation with “herd immunity”, Donald Trump is embracing it.

This makes America exceptional on two counts. First, it is the only nation whose leader explicitly questions the trade-off between economic growth and saving lives. Second, America is unique in lacking a clear policy. Its federal system offers a menu of epidemiological options. Viruses pay no heed to democracy or autocracy. They do thrive on confusion.

Covid-19 has given Mr Trump licence to air his alt-science theories. Every day he broadcasts homegrown ideas of how to defeat the disease. This includes a cocktail of anti-malaria drugs, the imminence of a “miracle” vaccine, predictions the virus will wash away by itself, change-of-season optimism and a drip drip of scepticism about social distancing.

The sight of experts around him is meant to reassure. Their look of strained reticence prompt thoughts of sappers navigating a minefield. Muammer Gaddafi used to stage accompaniments like this. It takes some getting used to in America.

More than half the country says it approves of how Mr Trump is handling the epidemic. Such polls should come with a health warning. Ratings for leaders across the west have risen sharply — as tends to happen in the early stages of an external threat.

The virus originated in China. But it will probably do more damage to the US

Rumours of Mr Trump’s re-election are thus premature. Polls show Joe Biden beating him by an average of 7 percentage points in a presidential election. That lead has not narrowed in the past three weeks. But the gulf between the federal government and America’s largest states is widening.

Such mixed signalling poses two threats to the US. The first is an à la carte grade of seriousness. Some states, such as New York, California, Washington and Connecticut, are enforcing lockdowns. Most are Democratic. Exceptions include Ohio and Maryland, whose governors are Republican.

Others, such as Texas and Florida, are taking a far more relaxed approach. This makes it easier for the virus to spread. The fact that Florida is packed with retirees from New York was until this week treated with remarkable insouciance. Before Tuesday Florida put no barriers stopping the flow of people south, nor 14-day quarantines for those who have made the trip. One of America’s greatest strengths — its laboratories of democracy — is becoming a liability.

Mr Trump’s timing is menacing. He wants to lift federal restrictions by Easter, which is in about two weeks. That almost exactly coincides with the expected peak of the epidemic in New York, the centre of the US outbreak. No state, including New York, has to follow Mr Trump’s lead. Nor are the majority of Americans likely to cram on to aeroplanes against scientific advice.

But he is giving dissenters an alternative path. The battle against socially communicable disease is as strong as its weakest link. America’s president is making it much weaker. He is also politicising social behaviour. Liberals want to shut down the economy to stop his re-election, he says, conservatives must therefore do the opposite.

Mr Trump’s ambivalence is also hurting New York and other viral hubs. Under the Defense Production Act, he can direct the private sector to make what is lacking — ventilators, protective gear and surgical equipment — then send the materials to where they are most needed. Mr Trump is refusing on the grounds that he is not a “shipping clerk”.

Material is going to the highest bidders, who are not necessarily those most in need. Mr Trump’s passivity reflects what he is hearing from chief executives rather than governors, who know what their hospitals lack. States are competing with each other for scarce goods. Another of America’s great strengths, its vibrant private sector, is therefore becoming a weakness.

The second threat is to America’s global power. The virus originated in China. But it will probably do more damage to the US. It is China, not the US, which is shipping ventilators to Europe, Africa and central Asia. China’s “face mask” diplomacy is breathtakingly opportunistic. But it meets a need.

America’s abdication of leadership is an act of self harm, which threatens to make it an object of mockery. There are no do-overs on pandemics. Mr Trump’s response to the coronavirus is worse than a crime. It is a mistake.

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again -- Richard Ford in The Sportswriter
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