What Now?! – April 30, 2020

“Gross domestic product fell 4.8% in the first quarter,” CNBC reports. “Economist surveyed by Dow Jones had expected the first estimate of GDP to show a 3.5% contraction.”

New York Times: “Even so, most of the quarter came before the coronavirus pandemic forced widespread shutdowns and layoffs. Economists expect figures from the current quarter to show GDP contracting at an annual rate of 30% or more.”

Associated Press: “On Wednesday, the government will offer a glimpse of how dark the picture has grown and how much worse it could get as the coronavirus pandemic inflicts ruinous damage. The Commerce Department is expected to estimate that the gross domestic product, the broadest gauge of the economy, shrank at an annual rate of 5% or more in the January-March quarter.”

“That would be the sharpest quarterly drop in GDP since the Great Recession, which ended in 2009. And it would be the first quarterly contraction in six years.”

“And yet forecasters say that will be only a precursor of a far grimmer GDP report to come for the current April-June quarter, when business shutdowns and layoffs have struck with devastating force. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that GDP will plunge in the current quarter by a 40% annual rate. That would be, by a breathtaking margin, the bleakest quarter since such records were first compiled in 1947.”

“The impact on the American economy will be very, very, very small, if any… We really haven’t seen any economic impact. There may be some out there. Our own internal numbers say maybe two-tenths of a percent in the first quarter, but that’s not going to end this growth cycle.” — White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, on Fox News, February 7, 2020.

Reality check by Bloomberg: “The record-long U.S. economic expansion is over after almost 11 years, with what’s likely to be the deepest recession in at least eight decades now under way.”

President Trump said the federal government will not be extending its social distancing guidelines when they expire Thursday at the end of the month, CBS News reports. Trump added that the guidelines will be “fading out” because of work that governors are doing in their states.

Jared Kushner told Fox & Friends that much of the country could be “back to normal” by June. Said Kushner: “I think what you’ll see in May as the states are reopening now is May will be a transition month, you’ll see a lot of states starting to phase in the different reopening based on the safety guidelines that President Trump outlined on April 19.”

He added: “I think you’ll see by June that a lot of the country should be back to normal, and the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again.”

“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this. The federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story.” — Jared Kushner, on Fox News, discussing the pandemic that has killed nearly 60,000 Americans.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN a second wave of the coronavirus is “inevitable,” but just how bad it is will depend on the progress the U.S. makes in the coming months.

Said Fauci: “If by that time we have put into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we should do reasonably well. If we don’t do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.”

“Meat-processing plant workers are concerned about President Trump’s executive order that compels plants to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic. Meat plant employees are among America’s most vulnerable workers, and some say they expect staff will refuse to come to work,” CNN reports.

Said one worker: “All I know is, this is crazy to me, because I can’t see all these people going back into work. I don’t think people are going to go back in there.”

President Trump declared Tuesday that the U.S. will be able to carry out five million coronavirus tests per day, but the top official overseeing testing strategy told Time earlier in the day that goal wasn’t feasible given current technology.

Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of health who is in charge of the government’s testing response, said that “there is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even five million tests a day.”

“Last summer, on his final day of work at the nation’s consumer finance watchdog agency, a career economist sent colleagues a blunt memo,” the New York Times reports.

“He claimed that President Trump’s appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had manipulated the agency’s research process to justify altering a 2017 rule that would have sharply curtailed high-interest payday loans.”

“The departing staff member, Jonathan Lanning, detailed several maneuvers by his agency’s political overseers that he considered legally risky and scientifically indefensible, including pressuring staff economists to water down their findings on payday loans and use statistical gimmicks to downplay the harm consumers would suffer if the payday restrictions were repealed.”

Wall Street Journal: “The swine flu, an outbreak of H1N1 flu, turned out to be a dry run for a major pandemic. But neither hospitals nor manufacturers nor the government made sweeping changes to be ready for one.”

“Instead, each part of the medical-industrial equation acted in its own interest, and didn’t set aside resources that might have better prepared America for the coronavirus crisis. Each ignored warnings of shortages of protective equipment in case of a pandemic—shortages that handicapped the struggle against the virus early on and continue today.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) offered a critical assessment of the federal government’s readiness for the novel coronavirus, describing it as not a “great moment in American leadership,” the Washington Post reports.

“Romney mostly kept his criticisms broad, avoiding attacking President Trump directly, though he took a few swipes at the president’s management style.”

Said Romney: “The speed of our response looked slow compared to other people. That first phase will not stand out as a great moment in American leadership. We didn’t look real strong, and that’s kind of an understatement.”

Politico: “Economists from a broad range of ideological backgrounds are encouraging Congress to keep spending to combat catastrophic job losses — and say now is not the time to focus on the deficit. They emphasize that the federal government can borrow at near-zero interest rates, as investors seek the safety of U.S. bonds and the Federal Reserve buys up tens of billions of dollars worth of Treasury securities each week.”

Amanda Mull, writing at The Atlantic: “Public-health officials broadly agree that reopening businesses—especially those that require close physical contact—in places where the virus has already spread will kill people. Even so, many other states are quietly considering similar moves to Georgia’s. Most are taking a more measured approach—waiting a bit longer to reopen, setting testing or infection benchmarks that must first be met—but some, such as Oklahoma and Colorado, have already put similar plans in motion.

By acting with particular haste in what he calls a crucial move to restore economic stability, Kemp has positioned Georgia at the center of a national fight over whether to stay the course with social distancing or try to return to some semblance of normalcy. But it’s easy to misunderstand which Americans stand on each side. Many Georgians have no delusions about the risks of reopening, even if they need to return to work for financial reasons. Among the dozen local leaders, business owners, and workers I spoke with for this article, all said they know some people who disagreed with the lockdown but were complying nonetheless. No one reported serious acrimony in their communities.”

“Instead, their stories depict a struggle between a state government and ordinary people. Georgia’s brash reopening puts much of the state’s working class in an impossible bind: risk death at work, or risk ruining yourself financially at home. 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.”

Washington Post: Study finds more than 80% of hospitalized Covid-19 patients were African-American.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee is taking steps to hold a confirmation hearing next week for President Donald Trump’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Rep. John Ratcliffe, when lawmakers return to Washington,” CNN reports.

“The details of the confirmation hearing are still fluid, as the committee has to work through the logistics of holding a hearing amid the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down the Capitol and the rest of the country.”

Joe Biden said he would keep the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, Bloomberg reports. Said Biden: “The move shouldn’t have happened in the context as it did, it should happen in the context of a larger deal to help us achieve important concessions for peace in the process. But now that is done, I would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv.”

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

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