Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Why It’s All Dr. Fauci’s Fault

Photos emerged last week of students, with very few wearing masks, in a crowded hallway in North Paulding High School, in Dallas, Georgia. Dallas, about 45 miles NW of Atlanta, is in Paulding County. Last week, Paulding County recorded 214 new cases of COVID-19 and an infection rate of 1,036 per 100k population. Nearby by Fulton county, home to Atlanta, had 1789 new cases and an infection ratio 1,922/100K. According to a CNN story, a sophomore student named Hannah posted the photos on social media, because, “I was concerned for the safety of everyone in that building and everyone in the county because precautions that the CDC and guidelines that the CDC has been telling us for months now, weren’t being followed,” she said.

On 16 July 2020, Georgia Governor Kemp sued the City of Atlanta for trying to enforce Atlanta’s mandate to wear masks in public.

Back in May, Trump has strongly urged states to reopen. Against CDC advice, Georgia was one of the first places in the US to allow nonessential businesses to reopen, with nail salons, massage therapists, bowling alleys, and gyms allowed to open on April 24. They were followed on April 27 by limited dine-in service for restaurants, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues. By May 4, some shopping malls had also reopened. By the end of June, Georgia’s hospitals were at maximum capacity. According to a Johns Hopkins Report, during the week Georgia set another all-time high for new cases. Governor Kemp said that he was of a mind to stay the course.

Since the pandemic struck, Georgia has suffered at least 4,177 deaths from COVID-19. During the week of 2-8 August, Georgia has seen at least 18,992 new infections and suffered at least 292 deaths from the virus.

On August 5, 2020, Dr. Fauci revealed to reporters that he has received death threats and that his daughters had been harassed.

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Healthcare Workers Union Pushing Medicaid Expansion in States

Oklahoma
If you remember, I wrote about Oklahoma squeaking through its own initiative to expand Medicaid for low-income people. In theory, the state will be in the driver’s seat (mostly) in deciding how much money it will allocate to the program rather than the Federal government. Political interests will have a difficult time killing Medicaid without another ballot initiative to override what The State Question 802 initiative was passed by a margin of less than 1 percentage point amongst voters.

Missouri
This last week, Missouri approved the expansion of Medicaid for many of the state’s poorest adults up to 138% FPL (which is 90% funded by the Federal Government. The expansion under Missouri Amendment 2 makes their conservative state the second to join the ACA through a ballot imitative changing the Missouri constitution during the pandemic.

The Missouri ballot measure expands Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents at a time when the state’s safety net health care program is already experiencing an enrollment surge tied to the pandemic’s economic upheaval. If you are unemployed you may qualify for Medicaid if you have income less than 138% FPL. Medicaid looks at current income and not annual income. The Medicaid expansion measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

Fairness Project and the United Healthcare Workers Union West
Backing these initiatives is a nonprofit organization called the Fairness Project which grew out of the frustration of healthcare strategists with 19 states, governed by Republicans, refusing to pass the Medicaid Expansion . . . which from the start of the ACA covered Medicaid expansion costs at 100% up till the end of 2016 and then gradually decreased to 90%.

A memo written by a California union leader in 2014, warned of steep declines in union membership potentially could leave workers unprotected with fewer benefits.

Dave Regan, president of United Healthcare Workers West, a union of 95,000 hospital workers; “Unionism is in decline, and there is no end to that in sight. We still need to give regular people the opportunity to have positive change in their lives.”

Regan proposed creating a nonprofit to promote the ballot initiative process to secure policies that would benefit workers, like increased access to health coverage and a higher minimum wage.

“Ballots are an opportunity to put a question, in its undiluted form, in front of millions of people as opposed to traditional legislative work, where things get watered down to get out of committee. You end up with what you actually want when you use the ballot.”

The Fairness Project came into existence in 2016 with initiatives to increase the minimum wage in both California and Maine. The following year it returned to Maine to work on healthcare and Medicaid. Five times, the Maine legislature passed bills to expand Medicaid and each time they were vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. Efforts to override the veto failed by a vote or two each time.

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Elites versus the public on renaming army bases

According to the Washington Post:

Half of Americans oppose renaming military bases currently named after Confederate generals, while 42 percent support the changes. Once again there is a significant partisan split, with 81 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents opposed and 66 percent of Democrats in favor. A majority of Americans ages 50 and older are opposed to any renaming, while a plurality of those under 50 support the change.

Despite the fact that the public leans slightly towards keeping current names, military and political elites (with the notable exception of the President) seem to be fairly unified in favor of renaming.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told The Wall Street Journal last week that he would not block the effort to rename the bases, and in an interview with a Louisville radio station, he said he didn’t “have any problem” with renaming the bases for “people who didn’t rebel against the country.” He has urged the president not to veto the bill.

“The issue of Army bases being named after Confederate generals is a legitimate concern in the times in which we live,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “I’m OK with a process that the Senate came up with. And there’s a lot of good things in this bill.”

So . . . what gives?  Why are Republicans refusing to play the race card here?  I can understand why military leaders object to having bases named after traitors, and they also need to create a force that can function effectively in a diverse world.  But what about Republican politicians?  Is this all being driven by members of Congress in tight races?  Is that plausible, given that most Americans oppose renaming?

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Interpol Supports Murder Charge Against MbS

Interpol Supports Murder Charge Against MbS

 In today’s Washington Post David Ignatius reports that Interpol refused a request from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) to extradite Saad Aljabri to Saudi Arabia from Canada in 2017. MbS had been trying to entice Aljabri to return and had arrested his children, who remain arrested despite complaints from the US government and basically the entire rest of the world. Aljabri was the top aide of MbS’s rival, the former Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), who was overthrown by MbS in a coup. Aljabri and MbN were highly regarded by officials in the US of several administrations, as well as other governments, and apparently was personally responsible for blocking a serious possible terrorist attack in the US.

After Interpol refused to extradite Aljabri from Toronto, MbS sent a crew to kill him. This was two months after MbS sent such a crew to Istanbul to kill and dismember Kamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post.  Aljabri warned the Canadian government they were coming and the team was detained at the Toronto airport, where they were found to have exactly the same implements that were used to dismember Khashoggi.

Aljabri is now suing MbS in US courts for trying to kill him.  MbS has claimed that Aljabri stole funds, but Aljabri says this is a false claim.  Ignatius notes that MbS will have to produce his claims, and the big deal here is that up until now the Interpol report was not public.  They refused MbS’s extradition request on this claim, and their report makes it clear that much lies behind their decision, including massive violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia by the murderer, MbS.

Barkley Rosser

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Initial and continuing jobless claims: back to being “less awful”

Initial and continuing jobless claims: back to being “less awful”

This morning’s initial and continued jobless claims resume the trend of “less awful” numbers.

New jobless claims fell to under 1,000,000 for the first time on an un-adjusted basis – 984,192, to be specific (gold in the graph below). After seasonal adjustment, they declined 249,000 to a new pandemic low of 1,186,000 (blue), also a new pandemic low:

Continuing claims (red, right scale), reported for the prior week, also made a new pandemic low of 16,107,000.

All of these remain at far worse levels than even at their worst during the Great Recession. Further, that there are still 1 million *new* layoffs a week almost 5 months into the pandemic indicates that longer-term damage is being done to the economy, I.e., if there were a vaccine tomorrow, there would be no “V-shaped” immediate recovery back to pre-pandemic levels. Almost all of which has been totally unnecessary, and has been caused by incompetent leadership at the very top.

But after about a month of stalling, on a very very very relative basis, I will take this “good” news.

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Team Trump on Susan Rice as Biden’s Running Mate

Team Trump on Susan Rice as Biden’s Running Mate

Next to Joe Biden, Susan Rice may be the most qualified person to lead our nation back from the utter disaster created by allowing Donald Trump to pretend to be our President. So what is this from the camp of the Liar-in-Chief? Trump’s aides and allies accuse Rice — without delving too deeply into the evidence — of helping cover up crimes for two of the president’s favorite foils, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, making her just the kind of “deep state” villain who could fire up his MAGA base. “She is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick,” a Trump campaign official said. I suspect Team Trump fears who Rice would be in a national campaign so they doing a classic head fake.
Don’t fall for it. Dr. Rice has committed no crimes and everyone (except for those MAGA hat wearers whose brains have rotted by now) knows it. What’s this? Four years earlier, she faced allegations that she misled Americans when she announced on national TV that the fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya, occurred after spontaneous protests in response to an anti-Muslim video. That was determined to be inaccurate. On Monday night, Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host influential in Trump’s orbit, opened his show with a lengthy diatribe about Rice and her role in the 2012 Benghazi raid — strikingly similar to the attack Republicans lodged against Clinton in the 2016 race against Trump. This Benghazi BS is false so why highlight the rant from the racist liar Tucker Carlson? And unfortunately, this Politico story continues with one false allegation after another.

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July jobs report: a very good *relative* gain – perhaps the last

July jobs report: a very good *relative* gain – perhaps the last

HEADLINES:

  • 1,763,000 million jobs gained. Together with the gains of May and June, this makes up about 42% of the 22.1 million job losses in March and April.
  • U3 unemployment rate declined -0.9% from 11.1% to 10.2%, compared with the January low of 3.5%.
  • U6 underemployment rate declined -1.5% from 18.0% to 16.5%, compared with the January low of 6.9%.
  • Those on temporary layoff decreased -1,300,000 to 9.225 million.
  • Permanent job losers decreased by -6,000 to 2.877 million.
  • May was revised upward by 26,000. June was revised downward by -9,000 respectively, for a net of 17,000 more jobs gained compared with previous reports.

Leading employment indicators of a slowdown or recession

 

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Necessity of America

If not the US, who?

In order to get it right, it is so important that we know what is going on now. In the midst of a pandemic, overpopulated, ever more marginalized by Global Warming, beggared with inequality, and sorely lacking leadership; the world is indeed going to hell in a handbasket.

Take a look:

An index of Fragile States:

Less than 10 States are shown as being Sustainable. A comparable number are shown not Sustainable but Stable. Together these groups, Sustainable and Stable, constitute about a third of the States. Below Stable, another one-third of the States are shown as being at Warning. The last one-third are shown to be at the Alert level. The US is barely in the top 20% on the index.

An index of Inequality:

In 2019, we were 28th out of 150 on the index.

We used to be the leader of the ‘Free World’. Is this current state of the world, in part, due to our abdication? What if some other nation takes that role? As the leader, we just may have gotten some things right. We made alliances, provided assistance, served as a role model. Today, the Greatest Nation on earth isn’t really. If not the US, then who?

After us, who else will give so freely of their capital? —

We hear that we are not a policeman to the world, or, that at least shouldn’t be. Then who else is going to restrain Xi? Erdoğan? Putin? Who else will keep India and Pakistan from annihilating one another?

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How To Measure Quarterly Changes In GDP Can Make A Big Difference

How To Measure Quarterly Changes In GDP Can Make A Big Difference

We have had dramatic headlines and commentary in recent days since the BEA issued its initial estimate of quarterly changes in GDP, which they do not officially measure on an shorter time period. This is a measure of the average GDP in one quarter compared to the average GDP in the next quarter.  Looking at Q1 of this year and Q2 of this year, they reported the largest quarterly decline ever recorded, -32.9% on an annualized rate, about -9.5% on a quarterly rate. This is a sharper decline than seen either for any pair of quarters in the Great Depression or the immediate post-WW II demobilization, much less such later events as the Great Recession of 2007-09.  Of course this generated big headlines and much breathless commentary, including quite a few commentators who did not get it that the -32.9% number was the annualized rate rather than the quarterly rate, so we had quite a few of them foolishly talking about how the economy had “fallen by a third.”  Yikes.

As I have noted in previous posts here, the economy has been doing a lot better than a lot of reporting and forecasts have let on, even as it is certainly slowing down now.  But if rather than looking at quarterly averages, which are heavily influenced by the fact that the economy did not “fall off a cliff” until mid-March, about 5/6 of the way through Q1 so that most of Q1 was at the high pre-fall level, one looks at where the economy was at the end of Q1 and compare it to where it was at the end of Q2, one gets a dramatically different story.  Over on Econbrowser Menzie Chinn has produced a figure from IHS Markit that estimates these shorter period changes. According to them the US GDP at the end of March (end of Q1) was at about $17.6 trillion annual amount while at the end of June it was at about $18.0 trillion, about 2.2% higher on a quarterly rate, which is about 9% higher on an annualized rate.  Needless to say, there is a dramatic contrast between -32.9% and +9.0%, but I have seen zero media commentary on this.

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