What Now?! – April 14, 2020

Reporting over the weekend has revealed that President Trump and his administration were repeatedly warned about the threat that the coronavirus could pose to American lives and the economy and that earlier action could have curbed the spread.

Axios lists 10 times Trump and his administration were warned about coronavirus. But he rejected every one of them — until it was too late.

None of this is surprising to anyone paying attention. Trump regularly dismisses experts and prefers to rely on things his friends tell him or what people say on television. He’s also shown a tremendous inability or unwillingness to learn new things. These are severe personality flaws we’ve all seen for years.

As Jonathan Bernstein writes: “The result is inevitably chaos. Add to that the general lack of interest in public policy that has characterized the Republican Party for at least the past decade, and you have an almost complete inability to govern.

That’s why the scariest articles over the weekend were the forward-looking ones, such as the Washington Post’s story about the overlapping task forces and poor decision-making that have left the administration, at this late date, without anything resembling a strategy for how to move past the present lockdown. Trump seems to think what’s needed is a single big decision, rather than a comprehensive plan for what comes next. Several such plans have been laid out in think-tank papers and news columns, but Trump doesn’t seem to be aware of them and there’s little sign that his administration is capable of moving ahead without him.”

“One month ago today, President Trump declared a national emergency,” NPR reports. “In a Rose Garden address, flanked by leaders from giant retailers and medical testing companies, he promised a mobilization of public and private resources to attack the coronavirus… But few of those promises have come to pass.”

“NPR’s Investigations Team dug into each of the claims made from the podium that day. And rather than a sweeping national campaign of screening, drive-through sample collection and lab testing, it found a smattering of small pilot projects and aborted efforts.”

“In some cases, no action was taken at all.”

President Trump falsely claimed in a tweet that he has the authority to determine when the country’s economy reopens.

Said Trump: “It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue.”

USA Today: “Federal law allows Washington to impose quarantines in some circumstances and limit travel between states, but the Trump administration has not invoked those powers. And the Supreme Court has struck down attempts by the federal government to intervene within states.”

“States on the country’s East and West coasts are forming their own regional pacts to work together on how to reopen from the stay-at-home orders each has issued to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus,” CNNreports.

“The first such group to be announced came Monday on the East Coast. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island each plan to name a public health and economic official to a regional working group. The chief of staff of the governor of each state also will be a part of the group, which will begin work immediately to design a reopening plan.”

“Later on Monday, the West Coast states of California, Washington and Oregon also announced they are joining forces in a plan to begin incremental release of stay-at-home orders.”

Andy Borowitz: Nation’s Governors Consider Forming Country.

Politico: “After the Senate adjourned with no action on Monday, it became clear that a slugfest between Democratic and Republican leaders will bleed into its second week over how to deliver the next tranche of economic stimulus. A continued deadlock is untenable: A popular small business program is set to run out of funds as soon as the end of the week and governors are begging for more money.”

“But neither party seems ready to buckle.”

“President Trump is in a rush to lift restrictions on economic activity amid the coronavirus pandemic, convinced that the move will rocket the economy out of a deep recession,” the New York Times reports.

“Companies say otherwise. So do a wide variety of economic and survey data, which suggest the economy will recovery slowly even after the government begins to ease limits on public gatherings and allow certain restaurants and other closed shops to reopen.”

“The evidence suggests it’s not just stay-at-home orders and other government restrictions that have chilled economic activity in the United States over the last month: it’s also a behavioral response from workers and consumers scared of contracting the virus.”

NBC News: “With his hoped-for Easter timeline having come and gone, President Trump now appears more determined than he has ever been to open up the economy with a ‘big bang’ early next month.”

Said a senior administration official: “I think we are all expecting or planning for May 1.”

“With the White House moving to reopen the economy as early as May 1, top officials have yet to coalesce around a single plan to allow Americans and businesses to safely resume work as the coronavirus pandemic rages on,” Politico reports.

“Instead, senior administration officials are engaged in an earnest yet scattershot effort to support President Trump’s long-expressed desire to revive the downward-spiraling economy and stabilize the volatile financial markets in the middle of an election year.”

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R) admitted he was “wrong” for advocating that events in New Orleans go on despite the growing coronavirus crisis, CNN reports. He added that he “absolutely” regrets his comments.

Nungesser also apologized to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) for criticizing her decision to cancel events: “So the mayor did the right thing. In hindsight, I was wrong and she was right.”

“Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared to confirm a bombshell New York Times report which said he and other Trump administration officials recommended the implementation of physical distancing to combat the coronavirus in February, but were rebuffed for almost a month,” The Guardian reports.

Said Fauci: “You know… as I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes, it’s not… It is what it is. We are where we are right now.”

President Trump delivered his first public rebuke of Dr. Anthony Fauci by resharing a tweet that said “Time to #FireFauci.”

“President Trump isn’t firing Anthony Fauci, the White House said Monday, seeking to extinguish speculation that flared over the weekend after Mr. Trump retweeted a critic who called for the member of his administration’s coronavirus task force to be dismissed after he said lives could have been saved if the government had acted more quickly,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said spokesman Hogan Gidley: “This media chatter is ridiculous—President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump.”

National Bureau of Economic Research survey of small businesses finds that when firms are told to expect a one-month crisis, the expectation of remaining open by the end of the year hovers around 70% across all industries with the exception of Arts and Entertainment, and Personal Services. In those industries, the expectation of remaining open drops to 65% and 57% respectively.

When firms are told to expect a six-month crisis, the average expectation of remaining open falls to 38%, and there is significant heterogeneity between sectors. The expected survival probability for firms in Arts and Entertainment drops precipitously to 35% if the crisis lasts 6 months. The expected probability of being open for Personal Services firms fall to 22% if the crisis lasts six months.

The restaurant industry seems particularly vulnerable to a long crisis. Restaurateurs believe that they have a 72% chance of survival if the crisis lasts one month, but if the crisis lasts six months, then they expect to survive with only a 15% probability. Likewise, the chance of survival for firms in tourism and lodging drops to 27% by the 6-month mark.

Brookings/Financial Times: “The world economy is facing its most severe challenge of the postwar period. Economic activity, financial markets, and private sector confidence are all collapsing. The latest update of the Brookings-Financial Times Tiger index (Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery), based on the most recent available data and estimates of real-time data, shows the front end of this collapse and suggests that much worse is to come…”

“In any event, the combined public health and economic crisis makes a rapid recovery less likely. Demand has been ravaged, there are extensive disruptions to manufacturing supply chains, and a financial crisis is unfolding simultaneously. Unlike the 2008-09 crisis that was triggered by liquidity shortages in financial markets, the crisis now unfolding involves more fundamental solvency issues for many firms and industries beyond finance.”

Jane Mayer: “Many have regarded McConnell’s support for Trump as a stroke of cynical political genius. McConnell has seemed to be both protecting his caucus and covering his flank in Kentucky—a deep-red state where, perhaps not coincidentally, Trump is far more popular than he is. When the pandemic took hold, the President’s standing initially rose in national polls, and McConnell and Trump will surely both take credit for the aid package in the coming months.”

“Yet, as COVID-19 decimates the economy and kills Americans across the nation, McConnell’s alliance with Trump is looking riskier. Indeed, some critics argue that McConnell bears a singular responsibility for the country’s predicament. They say that he knew from the start that Trump was unequipped to lead in a crisis, but, because the President was beloved by the Republican base, McConnell protected him. He even went so far as to prohibit witnesses at the impeachment trial, thus guaranteeing that the President would remain in office.”

Said GOP consultant Stuart Stevens: “Mitch is kidding himself if he thinks he’ll be remembered for anything other than Trump. He will be remembered as the Trump facilitator.”

David Atkins: “The reality is that leftist policy has never been more ascendant in the Democratic Party since at least the 1960s if not the 1930s. The Biden 2020 campaign platform is well to the left of the Clinton 2016 platform, which was itself well to the left of the Obama 2008 platform. Every major candidate in the 2020 field ran either on some version of Medicare for All, or at least a public option and Medicare expansion as a pathway toward it. Every major candidate proposed much bolder action on climate change than the Obama administration, and major policies to address student debt and college tuition. And on social policy from LGBT rights to criminal justice, the difference between the Democratic Party of today and that of 10 years ago could not be more stark…”

“What did lose unequivocally, however, was a certain brand of anti-partisan class revolutionary electoral politics rooted in industrial-era Marxist theory. Zack Beauchamp’s excellent analysis at Vox is essential reading on this topic, but the upshot is that regardless of leftist policy, a strain of Marxist theory since the late 19th century has posited that the left can usher in a socialist utopia by uniting the workers of the world–and that any cultural divisions within the working class that get in the way are the product of false consciousness and manufactured consent to prevent the proletariat from arising together to overthrow their capitalist chains.”

“The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will hear oral arguments by telephone conference next month, including a landmark case involving President Trump’s financial records,” The Hill reports.

“President Trump is likely to announce restrictions on U.S. funding for the World Health Organization this week over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the administration and conservative allies ramped up their criticism that the United Nations agency catered to China early in the outbreak and jeopardized global health,” the Washington Post reports.

David Remick: “The pandemic is an event in the natural history of our species, but it is also a political episode. Its trajectory is shaped by policy measures specific to particular governments. The fact that the United States is experiencing tremendous losses—that it has far more COVID-19 cases than any other country in the world—relates to a number of collective risk factors and preexisting conditions. The most notable one is to be found in the Oval Office…”

“The coronavirus has inflicted a level of pain that is deep and global. And yet many nations, from South Korea to Germany, have done far better at responding to it than the United States has. The reasons for the American failing include a lack of preparation, delayed mobilization, insufficient testing, and a reluctance to halt travel. The Administration, from its start, has waged war on science and expertise and on what Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon called ‘the administrative state.’ The results are all around us. Trump has made sure that a great nation is peculiarly vulnerable to a foreseeable public-health calamity.”

New York Times: “The ongoing effort of [Oregon, Washington state and California] to come to the aid of more hard-hit parts of the nation has emerged as the most powerful indication to date that the early intervention of West Coast governors and mayors might have mitigated, at least for now, the medical catastrophe that has befallen New York and parts of the Midwest and South.”

“Their aggressive imposition of stay-at-home orders has stood in contrast to the relatively slower actions in New York and elsewhere, and drawn widespread praise from epidemiologists. As of Saturday afternoon, there had been 8,627 Covid-19 related deaths in New York, compared with 598 in California, 483 in Washington and 48 in Oregon. New York had 44 deaths per 100,000 people. California had two.”

Politico: “The federal government’s haphazard approach to distributing its limited supplies has left states trying everything — filling out lengthy FEMA applications, calling Trump, contacting Pence, sending messages to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and trade adviser Peter Navarro, who are both leading different efforts to find supplies, according to local and states officials in more than half dozen states. They’re even asking mutual friends to call Trump or sending him signals on TV and Twitter.”

Politico: “The Senate’s streak of judicial confirmations is on hiatus as senators confront the coronavirus outbreak, leaving more than three dozen nominees in limbo. Until now, the Senate has rapidly confirmed President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, including record speed for federal appeals court judges. But like all Senate business, judges are taking a back seat to emergency rescue packages and extended periods away from the U.S. Capitol.”

“The delay is only temporary and Senate Republicans are vowing to pick up the pace as soon as they return to the Hill. But they also acknowledge the coronavirus pandemic has upended the Senate’s work.”

White House adviser Peter Navarro was combative 60 Minutes last night and issued a specific challenge.

Said Navarro: “I challenge you: Show me the 60 Minutes episode a year ago, two years ago, or during the Obama administration, during the Bush administration, that said, ‘Hey, global pandemic’s coming, you gotta do X, Y, and Z, and by the way, we would shut down the entire global economy to fight it.’ Show me that episode, then you’ll have some credence in terms of attacking the Trump administration for not being prepared.”

Well, roll the videotape.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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