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On Politics: How Will the Economy Be Rebuilt? – The New York Times

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Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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  • Unemployment is skyrocketing, with some experts’ projections surpassing the worst numbers of the Great Depression. And for the first time, lawmakers in Washington are talking seriously about responding with a government jobs program, along the lines of what President Franklin Roosevelt enacted in the 1930s. House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a $760 billion proposal, billed as the “Moving Forward Framework,” to create jobs through a national infrastructure program. There was increasingly bipartisan agreement that the $2 trillion stimulus enacted last week could prove insufficient as the effects of the coronavirus ripple outward for months — and possibly into next year.

  • Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, warned this week that he didn’t want Democrats to use the crisis to pass “unrelated policy items.” In any case, it’s unlikely that Speaker Nancy Pelosi could persuade a Republican-led Senate to follow her lead on crafting a law of this magnitude. Instead, this bill (and any others like it that Democrats pass in the House) may be fairly symbolic: a token that signals Democrats are serious about creating a jobs program. On Tuesday President Trump backed the idea, saying on Twitter that an infrastructure bill “should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!” Of course, Trump has often talked about infrastructure spending, and spoke for years about instituting an “infrastructure week” to discuss the issue in Washington, but it came to no end.

  • With the national stockpile of medical supplies nearly depleted, Trump urged state governments to “make a deal” with commercial manufacturers and persuade them to produce more medical supplies. He has been reluctant to broadly use the federal Defense Production Act to compel companies to make supplies, even though the law has been invoked hundreds of thousands of times during his presidency. Later, when asked why he hadn’t issued a national stay-at-home order, Trump said he preferred to leave that to the states, as well. “We’re really here to help governors,” he said. “They’re the front line of attack.”

  • Until yesterday, Florida’s Ron DeSantis was the most prominent governor of a hard-hit state who had still not issued a shelter-in-place order. That was despite the high number of older people who lived in the state. When DeSantis, a Republican, took that step yesterday — after a phone call with Trump, his political mentor — his mandate contained exceptions for religious gatherings, something many other states didn’t offer. In recent weeks, DeSantis has emerged as a kind of Trump-friendly foil to Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York and the most prominent face of Democratic efforts to fight the virus. While Cuomo has focused on restricting residents’ movement within his state, DeSantis has concentrated more on barring out-of-state visitors. But even as other states have struggled to gain access to resources in the federal stockpile, The Washington Post recently found that Florida, Trump’s adopted home state, had received all of the medical supplies it had requested.

  • Trump told reporters he would “absolutely” be willing to take a call from Joe Biden, should the Democratic presidential candidate have advice to offer. Biden has repeatedly invoked his experience helping to fight the spread of Ebola and swine flu in the Obama administration. After the White House adviser Kellyanne Conway challenged Biden to “call the White House today and offer some support,” Biden’s campaign issued a statement on Wednesday saying, basically, sure. At his daily news conference, Trump effectively said the same — if not exactly with enthusiasm. What are the chances this back-and-forth actually leads to a productive phone call? Let’s just say it’s uncertain.


President Trump reading his notes at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing at the White House.


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Biden served as President Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years — and as he moves closer to landing the Democratic presidential nomination himself, he is giving real thought to his own potential running mate, which he has said will be a woman.

It’s a subject on which his allies have strong — and sharply divergent — opinions, according to interviews with nearly two dozen Biden donors and other supporters. Some argued that Biden, if he wins the nomination, should prioritize selecting a woman of color as his running mate. Others said that regional considerations, like ties to the industrial Midwest, should hold greater weight.

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Biden has indicated that he’ll consider a long list of contenders, including former rivals like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom are senators — as well as governors like Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Other possible contenders often mentioned by allies include two Latina leaders from the West: Catherine Cortez Masto, a senator from Nevada, and Michelle Lujan Grisham, the governor of New Mexico. Stacey Abrams, the 2018 candidate for governor in Georgia, is frequently floated, too.

One complication in all of this is the uncertain status of the Democratic National Convention — it is scheduled for July, but Biden urged late Wednesday for it to be pushed back to August.

Here is what’s clear: Biden takes the subject of a running mate very seriously — and he and his team are preparing to accelerate the process.

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How Chinese Americans Are Living Through a Second Pandemic: Politics Daily – The Atlantic

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It’s Friday, April 3. In today’s newsletter: How many Chinese Americans are now living through their second pandemic. Plus: An unhealthy military, struggling to fight COVID-19.

*

« TODAY IN POLITICS »

In January, Mei Mei, a real-estate agent in California, shipped N95 masks to her parents in China. When the outbreak started getting worse in the U.S., they considered sending the same masks back to her. (ERIN BRETHAUER)

As coronavirus cases fall in China and soar in the U.S., many Chinese Americans are experiencing a disconcerting case of déjà vu. The social isolation, overwhelmed hospitals, equipment shortages and deaths all feel eerily familiar, after what those with loved ones in China experienced as the disease first peaked in Wuhan.

First-generation immigrants in particular recognized the virus as a serious threat before much of the rest of America. Many other Chinese Americans still have close ties to China, and went from sending N95 masks to their loved ones in China to receiving them from the same family and friends they once considered at a higher risk.

Mei Mei, a real-estate agent in California, has been coordinating donations of masks, face shields, goggles, and other PPE to send to local hospitals. “A lot of the donations I received, they were all still in the original package shipping by their family [from China],” she told my colleague Sarah Zhang.

“You tell people around you, but they didn’t really want to believe that,” Yahua Yu, a Seattle neurologist who attended medical school in Wuhan, told Sarah. “Then you start saying, ‘You will see. You will see.’”

—Kaila Philo

*

« THE CORONAVIRUS READER »

(HISTORICAL / GETTY)

+ The U.S. armed forces are devoted to keeping the American public safe. But the pandemic has military personnel questioning whether they can promise as much for themselves, Kathy Gilsinan reports.

+ Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has used the pandemic to seize absolute power in Hungary indefinitely. Now is the time for widespread scrutiny of the powers that be, Anne Applebaum argues.

+ Americans with disabilities fear that life-saving treatment could be withheld from them should they fall ill with COVID-19, Elaine Godfrey reports.

+ As unemployment skyrockets, President Trump’s reelection chances plummet, Annie Lowrey argues.

You can keep up with The Atlantic’s most crucial coronavirus coverage here.


*

Today’s newsletter was written by Kaila Philo, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

You can reply directly to this newsletter with questions or comments, or send a note to politicsdaily@theatlantic.com.

Your support makes our journalism possible. Subscribe here.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Kaila Philo is an editorial fellow at The Atlantic.

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The Coronavirus Is Transforming Politics and Economics – The New Yorker

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Just like in wartime, people are frightened, public attitudes are changing, and the circumstances necessitate an expanded role for the government, including the Department of the Treasury.Photographer by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty

In early March, when health experts warned that the United States risked running short of vital medical supplies, such as masks and ventilators, Donald Trump resisted calls to invoke the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that gives the President broad powers to prioritize the production of certain items when they become important for national security. As recently as last week, he said, “We don’t need it.” Finally, on Thursday, Trump dropped the pretense and invoked the act to order the suppliers of ventilator manufacturers to give them the components they need to speed up production.

Every day, in ways small and large, the spread of the coronavirus is reshaping American politics. As the death toll rises and the economic fallout spreads, measures once considered unthinkable are being adopted, and not just in the public-health sphere. The $2.2 trillion emergency spending bill that Congress passed last week is worth about ten per cent of G.D.P., and in the coming months we are likely to see another stimulus. This dramatic ramp-up in federal spending is comparable to what happened in 1942, the year after Pearl Harbor, when federal spending as a share of G.D.P. rose by more than ten percentage points.

Trump is no F.D.R., of course, and the virus, unlike the Axis Powers, is an invisible enemy. But the record shows that lethal pandemics and major wars can both have enormous political and economic consequences. In his 2017 opus “The Great Leveler,” Walter Scheidel, a Stanford historian, described them as two of the “four horsemen” that have flattened economic inequality throughout human history. (The other two levelling forces that Scheidel identified were revolutions and state failures.) By decimating the population of medieval Europe, the Black Death made labor scarce, which raised wages and undermined the feudal system. The Civil War abolished slavery and gave rise to the Homestead Act of 1862. The First World War changed the role of women in the economy and paved the way for their political emancipation. The Second World War elevated the role of labor unions and led to the explicit adoption of Keynesian full-employment policies, through the 1946 Employment Act. In Europe, it facilitated the creation of a postwar welfare state, including the National Health Service in Britain.

These violent ruptures lasted years. We can hope that this horrible public-health crisis will also be temporary. And yet, the “wartime” metaphor is in many ways apt. Daily life has been transformed; in just two weeks, almost ten million Americans have filed unemployment claims; and earlier this week a White House task force said the death toll could eventually reach two hundred and forty thousand. Just like in wartime, people are frightened, public attitudes are changing, and the circumstances are necessitating a big expansion of the government’s role.

As of today, tens of millions of small and medium-sized firms will be able to take out bank loans to cover all of their running costs, including wages and rent, for the next eight weeks. If they keep their workers on the books, or rehire the ones they have laid off in the past couple of weeks, the Treasury Department will automatically repay the loans in their entirety. (I wrote about the scheme earlier this week.) The involvement of banks disguises the fact that this is essentially a huge, federal grant program, in which Uncle Sam will be paying the wages of tens of millions of Americans who are nominally private-sector employees. For a conservative Republican Administration, this is a strikingly interventionist move. But it doesn’t cover large corporations, and there are doubts about how quickly and widely the loans will be taken up. (The initial reports aren’t encouraging.) If the jobless count keeps rising, pressure will grow for the Administration to go further and copy the emergency job-protection programs that many European countries have adopted, which encompass businesses of all sizes and involve the government paying them directly.

In other policy areas, too, the Overton window—the range of political options considered acceptable—is expanding. The rapid passage of such a big stimulus, with more to come probably, has punctured the idea, assiduously promoted by deficit hawks, that we “can’t afford” more government programs. Despite all the additional spending, the U.S. Treasury is still able to borrow on remarkably favorable terms: on Thursday, the yield on ten-year Treasury bonds was just 0.63 per cent. And as a backstop, there is the Federal Reserve, with its electronic printing press at the ready.

You don’t have to be a convert to Modern Monetary Theory to have noted the alacrity with which the Fed, over the past month, has purchased and placed on its balance sheet about $1.5 trillion worth of Treasury bonds, commercial paper and bonds issued by large corporations, mortgage-backed securities, auto loans, and credit-card loans. In the coming days, it may well start lending directly to big corporations. As the Fed constructs a comprehensive safety net for Wall Street and corporate America, how can anyone argue against an equally comprehensive approach to safeguarding the welfare of medical workers, delivery-truck drivers, grocery-store employees, and other ordinary Americans on the front line of the battle to contain COVID-19?

The public at large may not grasp some of the financial intricacies, but it surely sees the urgent need for universal health care. According to a poll published by Morning Consult earlier this week, net support for Medicare for All—those who support it minus those who oppose it—has risen by nine points. The virus isn’t just raising support for socialized medicine; it is also undermining the finances of the private-insurance model. Caring for COVID-19 patients can be very costly. If the insurers have to recoup these costs next year, they could raise their 2021 premiums by more than forty per cent, according to an analysis by Covered California, the Golden State’s official health-insurance marketplace. Though Elizabeth Warren is out of the Democratic primary and it would be a huge surprise for Bernie Sanders to secure the Party’s nomination, they could well end up winning the debate over health-care policy.

In another important development, the mass layoffs that have resulted from the virus have also laid bare the iniquities of the gig economy, in which Uber drivers and other online-platform workers, temp-agency workers, and a whole variety of freelancers didn’t have access to health insurance, sick leave, or unemployment insurance. During an appearance on CNBC on Thursday, the investor James Chanos said he was selling short the stocks of gig-economy companies because their business model, which is based on classifying workers as self-employed to avoid giving them costly benefits, is likely to be challenged. “I think both political parties are going to be looking at that pretty hard,” Chanos said.

Much depends on the duration of the pandemic, of course. If the associated shutdowns prove to be reasonably short-lived—two or three months—the economy and the markets could rebound fairly rapidly. Congress and the Fed could wind down their emergency programs, and public attitudes could flip back. But the longer the pandemic goes on, and the deadlier it becomes, the greater the pressure will be for more government activism of various forms.

It would be reassuring to think that this pressure will always lead to necessary actions and progressive policies, but that might be kidding ourselves. A new study of the impact of the 1918 flu pandemic on the U.S. and European countries shows that it led to a decline in social trust. The spread of the virus, the confinement measures taken to counter it, and “rumours about enemy spies spreading the infection beyond the lines as a kind of biological weapon created a climate of suspicion and mistrust,” the authors noted.

With some people already calling for residents of COVID-19 hotspots to be confined to their own areas, and Trump referring to “the China virus,” we are already seeing some echoes of this phenomenon. As the pandemic intensifies, it could lead to rising xenophobia, a further accentuation of regional divides, and even demands for authoritarian remedies, which Trump, having settled into the idea of himself as a wartime leader, might be all too eager to exploit.

That is worst-case speculation. But COVID-19 is shifting the tectonic plates that undergird American politics, and, as with the progress of the virus itself, the range of possible outcomes is wide. It is in such circumstances that history is made, for good or ill.


A Guide to the Coronavirus

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Coronavirus: Playing party politics in a pandemic? – BBC News

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“United front.” “Unity of purpose.” “Common ground.”

Take your pick from the bank of phrases used by our politicians when they talk about the need to work together to tackle this deadly pandemic.

Two weeks ago when the executive’s 10 ministers held a joint press conference in Stormont’s grounds, it seemed like they might just be capable of doing it.

But that didn’t last long.

Sinn Féin has been pulling in the opposite direction from its power-sharing partner, the DUP, on many aspects of the response to this crisis.

The first and deputy first ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, may have been standing side-by-side at regular press conferences, but their messages – on everything from school closures and testing to what counts as an essential business – have been entirely contradictory and confusing.

Flawed strategy?

Ms O’Neill’s latest comments, accusing Health Minister Robin Swann of being too slow to act, are significant because she is swiping at her very own government.

In the space of one interview, the concept of collective responsibility practically vanished.

Critics say she’s acting more like an opposition leader playing politics, than the joint head of an administration speaking up on principle.

But Sinn Féin says there is no point presenting a united front on a flawed strategy, and that if the party tried to resolve differences behind the scenes – rather than airing legitimate concerns with strategy in public – it would get slated for that.

Ms O’Neill says she’ll continue to “call out” problems within government, and that argument will hold weight with some, but it will further upset relations with the other four parties, in an already tense executive.

Arlene Foster tried to put out the flames, sounding a calm note when she appeared on Friday’s airwaves, although some within the DUP may have wanted her to take a tougher line.

Fragile relationships

For days now, Stormont sources have been briefing journalists that all is not well on the hill, as ministers and their respective teams go on the defensive.

Around the executive table, the atmosphere’s been repeatedly described as “toxic”, with decisions being taken in silos and even some policy announcements being put on social media before governmental colleagues have been informed.

It’s true the parties are facing challenges they never envisaged, made harder by the fact devolution was only restored in January after a three-year hiatus – relationships were already fragile.

The crisis has also highlighted the shortcomings in the limited powers afforded to the Stormont executive.

Whether it’s relying on Westminster for extra funding, or looking to Dublin for help in securing additional equipment, given the bidding war going on across the world, Northern Ireland only has so many levers to pull and no doubt that is also exacerbating internal strains.

Failure is not an option as lives are depending on the executive and time is short. The peak of the virus is due to arrive in Northern Ireland during the next two weeks.

Over the years the clarion call here has been for politics to be taken out of health. But if the parties couldn’t do that in the past how can anyone expect them to take the politics out of a pandemic?

The DUP-Sinn Féin partnership has always been one of reluctant necessity, due to Northern Ireland’s system of mandatory power sharing.

It’s hard to present a united front if someone doesn’t fully believe in it. Will the executive soon reach a point where the differences in approach to tackling this virus become too much to bear?

For the sake of everyone in Northern Ireland, let’s hope not.

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