Headlines: April 14, 2020
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President Donald Trump on Monday claimed “total authority” as President when asked about lifting state and citywide quarantines during the pandemic. He spelled out his interpretation of executive authority in response to a reporter’s question. It was the same position he had claimed on Twitter earlier in the day. But, when asked about whose responsibility it was to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, Trump weeks ago had laid it at the feet of state governors, even saying he didn’t take any responsibility. And on April 8th, former Gov. of South Carolina, Nikki Haley – a Republican who backs Trump – wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying that it was up to governors to deal with the virus and that, “America is better served when presidents respect the diversity of states instead of dictating uniform solutions.” Now however, the President has a different view – one that legal scholars take huge issue with because the literal definition of a totalitarian government is one where a leader claims “total authority.” Meanwhile New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state has been the worst hit by the virus vehemently countered the President’s claim. Trump lashed back on Twitter saying that Cuomo has been begging the federal government for medical equipment and, “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!”
Trump has continued spewing false claims at a breathtaking rate during his task force press briefings and on Monday even played a compilation of video clips of positive press coverage of his handling of the pandemic leading networks like CNN to cut away. In fact CNN labeled it with the startling headline, “Angry Trump Turns Briefing into Propaganda Session,” and the network’s anchor John King said, “To play a propaganda video at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room is a new — you can insert your favorite word here in this administration.” Meanwhile on Monday Fox News announced the President’s “Council to Reopen America,” that included a list of 7 white millionaires and billionaires – all men except for the President’s daughter Ivanka Trump. Other members include his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Representative Mark Meadows, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It is not clear if a single doctor or infectious disease expert is on the team. Trump later denied that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were on the council. Although the President is eager to reopen the economy terrified that an economic depression is sinking his reelection chances, a new Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans would prefer to choose safety over profits.
The Wall Street Journal published a detailed analysis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Tuesday and concluded that at the time the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus spread a “pandemic,” the agency had thousands of posts unfilled. Additionally FEMA – which lies under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security – was far more focused on immigration at the direction of the Trump administration.
A watchdog group called the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has found that for the first time since World War II, the federal government’s debt will exceed the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). The Committee’s president conceded that, “combating this public health crisis and preventing the economy from falling into a depression will require a tremendous amount of resources – and if ever there were a time to borrow those resources from the future, it is now.” However a non-partisan Congressional group called the Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that as part of the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package that just passed, Senate Republicans snuck in a tax relief plan that exclusively benefits millionaires – to the tune of $90 billion tax dollars this year alone. Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said, “It’s a scandal for Republicans to loot American taxpayers in the midst of an economic and human tragedy.” Meanwhile a coalition of 180 groups led by the Economic Policy Institute on Monday sent a letter to Congress demanding it pass a $500 billion fund to provide immediate relief to state, local, territorial, and tribal governments.
The results from last week’s controversial primary elections in Wisconsin are in, and a liberal challenger named Jill Karofsky has beaten the incumbent Republican state supreme court justice Daniel Kelly. It was this race that Republicans had in mind when the GOP-dominated legislature insisted on moving forward with the election in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown. The resulting Democratic victory surprised both sides and bodes ill for the Republican party in November’s elections. In the Presidential primary, former Vice President Joe Biden swept to victory as expected, pushing his delegate total to 1,293 as he inches closer to the 1,991 needed to formally cinch the nomination. His closest rival Senator Bernie Sanders, who conceded the race a day after the Wisconsin elections, endorsed him on Monday calling Biden, “a very decent man.” Speaking to Biden via a live video chat, Sanders also said, “It’s no great secret out there, Joe, that you and I have our differences, and we’re not going to paper them over. That’s real.” On Tuesday, former President Barack Obama finally endorsed Biden as well – praising Sanders as he did it as, “a man who has devoted his life to giving voice to working people’s hopes, dreams, and frustrations.”
The 10th Circuit court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling allowing abortions in the state of Oklahoma to continue during the pandemic. Anti-Abortion lawmakers around the nation have attempted to undercut women’s reproductive right under cover of the crisis. A 5th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed medication abortions in the state of Texas to also continue, overruling a decision by Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
While the US’s death toll from the virus tops 23,000, there were more than half a million infections in total. That’s nearly 20% of all deaths globally and more than a quarter of all infections recorded worldwide. The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday backed a plan by the G7 group to suspend debt payments by poor nations in the face of the pandemic. The IMF expects the international economy to slide into a global depression with an overall economic contraction of 3% expected this year. According to AP, “The bleak assessment represents a breathtaking downgrade by the IMF,” as the virus-related restrictions, “have suddenly brought economic activity to a near-standstill across much of the world.”