The economic impact of the coronavirus has taken a heavier toll on low-wage earners according to Tomas J Philipson, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC before his reported departure, he said: “There’s a sort of unique impact of this shock in that its very regressive, hitting the low wage part of the economy. Low-wage workers take a bigger hit than higher wage”.
The virus has derailed any progress the US was making in raising the living standards of those on low pay, Prof Philipson said in an interview for Coronavirus: The Economic Shock, in which some of the world’s leading economists and business leaders look at how the gravest economic downturn in nearly a hundred years may change the way we live and work.
“We had enormous success in growing lower wages before the pandemic struck, so this has taken a very regressive toll on the economy,” he argues.
This has political implications for the upcoming November election as President Trump enjoys far higher support among non-college educated voters – often used as a proxy for low vs high wage earners – than among those who have college degrees.
Prof Philipson also plays down the chances of a rapid economic recovery. “I’m not saying we are going to have a v-shaped recovery, in fact the data shows a sort of gradual response.”
However, he also defends the United States’ response to the pandemic and places some of the responsibility Covid-19 in the US at the doors of state governors.
“We were the first country to introduce travel bans from China and were criticised for that. Many state governments run by Democratic governors did not act before the federal government, even though they were free to do so.”
He disagrees that a rise in US economic nationalism has been harmful to the world economy. “I think China was justifiably demonised in the sense that we treated them a lot better selling stuff here than they treated us selling stuff there. I think the president has done a lot to balance that”.
Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Stanford University says the virus has seen economic tensions between the world’s two biggest economies become more than a trade dispute. “It seems to me pretty clear that we’re now in ‘Cold War Two’.
“It’s going to be different from ‘Cold War One’, not least because the US and the Soviet Union were never as economically interdependent as the US and China have become over the last 20 years.
“It’s hard to think of a better illustration of the downsides of globalisation than the extreme vulnerability it exposed to a virus that originated in in China.”This has, he believes, huge economic implications for the entire interconnectedness of the world economy and therefore the size and the health of the global economy.
Globalisation has been credited with lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty but has also been blamed for deepening inequality within countries. The virus has operated like an X-ray on the global economic body and its revealed weaknesses and imbalances along economic, gender and ethnic fault lines.
Ursula Burns was the first African American woman to sit on the board of a Fortune 500 company and she now sits on the boards of Nestle, Uber and ExxonMobil. She says business is emerging as an unlikely and welcome ally in the fight against inequality that she says the pandemic has laid bare.
“Amazingly enough, business is starting to be at the centre of that conversation. At the centre because governments around the world are not articulate enough or sensitive enough or informed enough to contribute positively to this conversation. So out of nowhere, businesses start to change the discourse in the world.”
Will business step up? Or will the fight for survival mean savage cost-cutting and mass redundancies compounding the problems of inequality?
The International Labour Organization estimates that the equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs could be lost worldwide in the second three months of this year. The ILO says 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy -nearly half of the global workforce – are in immediate danger of losing their livelihoods.
In developing countries, where government safety nets are weak and where economies are particularly vulnerable, things may be particularly tough.
It is a point made by Tony Elumelu, who is one of Africa’s most influential businessmen. He is a billionaire banker and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which invests in start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) across the continent.
“We have endemic poverty in Africa. Over 80% of our population live from hand to mouth. They go out, they die of Covid. They sit at home, they die of hunger. Then what is better for them to do? It is a bad situation but it gives us all the opportunity to re-set.”
Big business – global corporations – seem ready to reset too. The chairman of Tata Group, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, and Nissan’s chief operating officer, Ashwani Gupta, both believe global business is in the midst of a long-term rethink on how employers organise their workforce and how supply chains and resources will operate. They suggest sustainability may become more of a focus.
In a remarkable broadcasting moment, Mr Chandrasekaran – a titan of global business – looked out across Mumbai and reflected on the change. “You can hear the birds. We can breathe fresh air… on a clear day we can see the stars.”
So will the world grasp this opportunity to change how the world economy works and address pressing challenges that include global inequality and climate change?
Or when the health crises passes will things return to way they were? Will we miss an opportunity to change how the global economy functions for the welfare of us all?
Coronavirus: the Economic Shock is presented by Simon Jack and produced by Kirsty MacKenzie. It includes the thoughts of Nissan’s COO Ashwani Gupta, Nobel prize-winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, Tata’s chairman Tata Natarajan Chandrasekaran; former UK prime minister Tony Blair, and Krishnamurthy Subramanian, the chief economic advisor to Indian PM Narendra Modi. It is broadcast on BBC Sounds and BBC World Service.
How the coronavirus is shaping health care politics in 2020 – CNN
2018 vs. 2020
How they’re campaigning
Challenges for non-expansion states
- The states with the largest share of uninsured also tend to be among those where the highest share of the population suffers from underlying health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, that put them at elevated risk of serious health consequences if they contract coronavirus, according to a recent Kaiser analysis. And, according to an Urban Institute analysis for me of 2018 census data, African Americans and Hispanics — two groups suffering disproportionately in the outbreak — are far more likely than Whites to be uninsured in those same states. In Texas, for instance, Blacks are about 50% more likely than Whites to lack health insurance, and Hispanics are almost three times as likely. In Florida, Blacks are about 40%, and Hispanics about 75%, more likely than Whites to be uninsured.
- People without health insurance tend to put off seeking care until it is absolutely unavoidable, experts note. That could make them more reluctant to pursue testing for coronavirus at the first indication of symptoms — extending the time they are circulating the disease in the community. Many of the uninsured “won’t go get care because they assume they’re not going to get it,” says Vivian Ho, a health care economist at Rice University and the Baylor College School of Medicine in Texas. “I have no doubt that’s a good portion of why the disease is spreading here.”
- More uninsured receiving coronavirus care increases the financial strain on hospitals, already reeling from the severe decline in revenue for other services as potential patients avoid seeking medical care during the outbreak. The federal government has allocated a substantial $175 billion to support medical providers during the crisis, with about half of that earmarked for hospitals; but as the number of coronavirus patients without health insurance mounts, “that’s going to increase the financial stress,” says Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “At the rate we’re going, none of this relief is going to make anybody whole.” The administration has promised to reimburse providers for treating the uninsured out of the relief money. On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services said that it’s paid $340 million so far to hospitals that have submitted claims for treating the uninsured. HHS said it’s less than it had expected but that hospitals can continue to submit claims.
- These financial strains could increase the risk that more hospitals will close, especially in states where the decision not to expand Medicaid has already placed smaller and rural hospitals at risk. “The public health crisis, combined with the economic crisis, has put many health care providers, especially in states that have not expanded Medicaid, at greater financial risk,” says Levitt, of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- With studies suggesting that lingering health problems afflict a significant portion of coronavirus victims who survive the disease, experts worry that many of the uninsured lack the regular source of care required for follow-up treatment.
Virus spread, not politics should guide schools, doctors say – The Associated Press
As the Trump administration pushes full steam ahead to force schools to resume in-person education, public health experts warn that a one-size-fits-all reopening could drive infection and death rates even higher.
They’re urging a more cautious approach, which many local governments and school districts are already pursuing.
But U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos doubled down on President Donald Trump’s insistence that kids can safely return to the classroom.
“There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” she told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
Still, health experts say there are too many uncertainties and variables for back-to-school to be back-to-normal.
Where is the virus spreading rapidly? Do students live with aged grandparents? Do teachers have high-risk health conditions that would make online teaching safest? Do infected children easily spread COVID-19 to each other and to adults?
Regarding the latter, some evidence suggests they don’t, but a big government study aims to find better proof. Results won’t be available before the fall, and some schools are slated to reopen in just a few weeks.
“These are complicated issues. You can’t just charge straight ahead,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during an online briefing.
Children infected with coronavirus are more likely than adults to have mild illnesses, but their risk for severe disease and death isn’t zero. While a virus-linked inflammatory condition is uncommon, most children who develop it require intensive care, and a few have died. Doctors don’t know which children are at risk.
“The single most important thing we can do to keep our schools safe has nothing to do with what happens in school. It’s how well we control COVID-19 in the community,” Frieden said. “Right now there are places around the country where the virus is spreading explosively and it would be difficult if not impossible to operate schools safely until the virus is under better control.”
Zahrah Wattier teaches high school in Galveston, Texas, where cases and deaths have been spiking. Until the state recently said schools must reopen to in-person classes, her district had been weighing options many others are considering, including full-time online teaching or a hybrid mix.
Wattier’s school has mostly Hispanic and Black students, many from low-income families; almost 70% qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches and many have parents who work in “essential” jobs that increase potential exposure to the virus. Online education was hard for many with limited internet access, and Wattier knows in-person classes can help even the playing field.
But she’s worried.
“My school has over 2,000 students. That’s over 2,000 exposures in a day,” said Wattier, whose parents live with the family and are both high-risk. “It’s a lot to think about. It’s my job. It’s something I choose to do, it’s something I love. Now it comes at a really high risk.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, whose guidance the Trump administration has cited to support its demands, says the goal is for all students to be physically present in school. But, it adds, districts must be flexible, consult with health authorities and be ready to pivot as virus activity waxes and wanes.
“It is not that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks this is a done deal because we have put out guidance,” said Dr. Nathaniel Beers, a member of the academy’s school health council. “But what we do know is that we need to have a more realistic dialogue about the implications of virtual learning on the future of children. We have left whole swaths of society behind, whether it’s because they have limited access to a computer, or broadband internet,” or because of other challenges that online education can’t address.
DeVos said local school officials are smart enough to know when conditions are not right.
“There’s going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school by school or a case by case basis.”
Following CDC and academy guidelines would mean big changes for most schools. Mask-wearing would be strongly encouraged for adult staff and students except the youngest. Desks would be distanced at least 3 feet apart; the CDC recommends 6 feet. Both suggest limiting adults allowed in schools, including parents, and canceling group activities like choir and assemblies. Staggered arrival and dismissal times, outdoor classes, and keeping kids in the same classroom all day are other options.
President Trump has threatened federal funding cuts for districts that don’t fully reopen.
DeVos defended that stance, saying, “American investment in education is a promise to students and their families.”
“If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds, and give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called DeVos’ comments “malfeasance and dereliction of duty.”
“They’re messing, the president and his administration are messing with the health of our children,” the California Democrat told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
While most funding typically comes from state and local sources, experts say schools will need more federal funding, not less, to reopen safely. Masks, extra cleaning supplies or janitors, additional classroom space, and mental health support for students and staff traumatized by the pandemic are among potential costs. And with more parents out of work, more children will qualify for federally funded school lunches.
Lynn Morales, 49, teaches 8th grade English at a high-poverty public school in Bloomington, Minnesota, that is considering several options including in-person classes; a final decision is expected Aug. 1.
Some colleagues are considering not returning to the classroom because their children’s day care centers aren’t reopening. Some say they won’t come back until there’s a vaccine.
“I am concerned and it’s because of the age group,” Morales said. ’’Middle school students … are lovely and I love them, but they touch, they get close, they roughhouse. It is their nature. They’re 13 years old. They are defiant.”
“If masks are required and a kid isn’t wearing a mask, is my job description going to be to chase down this kid and insist they wear a mask? And what if they don’t?”
Dr. Emily Landon, a University of Chicago infectious disease specialist, is helping the university and a campus preK-12 school decide how to reopen safely.
“Things are evolving from, ‘We can’t do it unless it’s perfectly safe’ to more of a harm reduction model, with the caveat that you can always step back” if virus activity flares, Landon said.
Single-occupancy dorms, outdoor classes, socially distanced classrooms and mask-wearing by students and faculty are on tap for the university. Face coverings will be required at the school too. Policies may change depending on virus activity.
She dismisses complaints from some parents who say masks are a loss of personal freedom.
“It’s not harmful for your child,” she said. “If you see wearing masks as a loss of personal freedom, then you have to think the same of pants.”
Dr. Tina Hartert of Vanderbilt University is leading a National Institutes of Health-funded study to determine what role children play in transmitting COVID-19. Almost 2,000 families are enrolled and self-test every two weeks. The idea is to find infected children without symptoms and see how easily disease spreads within families. Results may come by year’s end.
“If we don’t see significant transmission within households, that would be very reassuring,” Hartert said.
She noted that in other countries where schools have reopened, evidence suggests no widespread transmission from children.
In France, public schools reopened briefly before a summer break, with no sign of widespread virus transmission. Masks were only required for upper grades, but students stayed in the same classroom all day. A better test will be when the new school year starts Sept. 1.
In Norway, schools closed in March for several weeks. Nursery schools reopened first, then other grades. Children were put in smaller groups that stay together all day. Masks aren’t required. There have been only a few virus cases, said Dr. Margrethe Greve-Isdahl of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, but she noted virus activity is much lower than in the U.S.
Kati Spaniak, a realtor in Northbrook, Illinois, says her five teenage daughters have struggled to cope with pandemic fears, school closures and deficits of online learning. She strongly supports getting kids back in the classroom, and all her girls will return to some form of that in the fall.
It’s been hard for her high school senior, Kylie Ciesla. Prom, graduation and other senior rituals were canceled, and there were no good-byes. “Just to get ripped away from everything I’ve worked for 12 years, it’s really hard,” Kylie said.
At college, classes will be in person, masks mandated and a COVID-19 test required before she can move into her dorm. Kylie isn’t sure all that is needed.
“I hate that this thing has become so political. I just want the science. I want to know what we need to do to fix it,” she said.
AP reporters John Leicester and Arno Pedram in Paris contributed to this report.
Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
This story was first published on July 12, 2020. It was updated on July 13, 2020, to correct the name of the member of the American Academy of Pediatrics school health council. He is Dr. Nathaniel Beers, not Dr. Nicholas Beers.
Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE Charity contract discussions
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he was sorry for not recusing himself from cabinet discussions about awarding WE Charity a multi-million dollar contract to administer the summer student grants program.
“I made a mistake in not recusing myself. I am sorry,” Trudeau told reporters.
He said he should never have been part of the cabinet talks, given his family’s close personal ties to the charity.
The apology comes after CBC News and Canadaland reported that his mother, Margaret, and his brother, Alexandre, were paid in excess of $300,000 by WE and its entities for speaking engagements over the last four years.
Trudeau said he knew his mother and brother were employed as public speakers but he didn’t know just how much his family members were paid by WE.
“I deeply regret that I have brought my mother into this situation. It’s unfair to her, and I should have been thoughtful enough to recuse myself from this situation,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said the public service first recommended WE as the best pick for the contract, given its nationwide reach and its experience connecting students with volunteer opportunities.
Trudeau said he still should have known that his involvement in talks to award the contract would be problematic, given how closely associated his family is with the organization.
“When it came to this organization and this program, the involvement that I had in the past, and that my family has, should have had me remove myself from these discussions and I’m sorry that I didn’t,” Trudeau said.
He said he regrets that his failure to recuse himself from contract discussions has derailed a program that was set to help thousands of young people find work.
“I’m particularly sorry because not only has it created unnecessary controversy and issues, it also means that young people who are facing a difficult time right now, getting summer jobs, contributing to their communities, are going to have to wait a little longer before getting those opportunities to serve, and that’s frustrating,” he said.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau also apologized for not recusing himself from cabinet discussions on the WE contract.
Morneau’s daughter, Grace, works at WE in the travel department. His other daughter, Clare, has spoken at WE Day events.
“I did not recuse myself from the discussions on this topic and, given the fact my daughter works for the organization in an unrelated branch, I now realize I should have in order to avoid any perception of conflict,” Morneau said in a media statement.
My statement on the administration of the Canada Student Service Grant: <a href=”https://t.co/kPbjp8kiaU”>pic.twitter.com/kPbjp8kiaU</a>
He said the government’s intention was to flow money to WE to help students find jobs — and cabinet was just following the recommendations of public servants.
He said he’d recuse himself from any future discussions about WE.
Conservative MP Michael Barrett, the party’s ethics critic, said Trudeau’s apology was an attempt to stop this story from “spinning out of control.”
“We know that Justin Trudeau is only sorry when he gets caught and that’s what the apology was all about today,” he said.
“As the weight of this comes to bear down on him, he is sorry, but that doesn’t mean that the investigations won’t continue and they certainly should.”
Barrett said Trudeau should appear before the House of Commons finance committee to field questions from MPs, and should waive cabinet confidentiality for all documents related to the contract.
The opposition Conservatives are also calling for an emergency meeting of the Commons ethics committee to study the government’s decision to award the contract to the charity.
In a letter to the committee’s clerk, Conservative MPs Barrett, Damien Kurek and Jacques Gourde say the committee should be recalled and an order should be issued demanding that Speakers’ Spotlight — the agency that arranged for the Trudeaus to speak at WE events — produce receipts for the appearances.
The MPs say the committee also could review “the safeguards which are in place to avoid and prevent conflicts of interest in federal government procurement, contracting, granting, contribution and other expenditure policies.”
The federal ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, already has said he will review the government’s decision to award the contract to administer the $912-million program to WE. The Conservatives have said the RCMP should investigate the deal for possible criminality.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said he’s tired of hearing apologies from the prime minister on ethical scandals. He said Trudeau hasn’t learned anything from incidents like the SNC-Lavalin scandal or the trip to Aga Khan’s private island.
“There comes a time when we do not trust anymore and when being sorry is not something you believe in anymore,” he said.
“So perhaps there’s something else to be done and the inquiries which have been asked by the Conservatives seem to be a good idea. (Trudeau) should come forward and tell the whole truth.”
WE Charity co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger offered their own mea culpa in a statement published in a full-page ad in today’s Globe and Mail.
The brothers said the fallout from the botched partnership with the federal government has been “extremely difficult” and they understand why questions have been asked about their financial dealings with members of the Trudeau family.
“The charity’s integrity and purpose has been called into question. It has had direct impacts on our staff, supporters, and beneficiaries. We have made mistakes that we sincerely regret,” the Kielburgers said in the statement.
“It has led us to more closely examine our own internal structures, governance and organization. In the days to come we will have more to say on these matters and about the organization’s future. For now, we wanted to set the record straight, take responsibility for our part, and refocus on the mission that started twenty-five years ago.”
The charity also has faced a backlash from some people — notably former NHL star Theo Fleury and R&B singer Jully Black — who have agreed in the past to speak at WE events for free.
The co-founders said honorariums were provided to certain individuals “who committed to speaking at multiple WE Day cities and many additional events while in the city, requiring significant time commitments.”
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