Headlines: August 14, 2020
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President Donald Trump on Friday was found to have requested a mail-in ballot in order to be able to vote remotely in primary elections next week in his new home state of Florida. The Palm Beach County elections department reportedly received the request for mail-in ballots for Donald and Melania Trump signaling that the President’s vociferous railing against universal vote-by-mail was aimed at everyone else but him. A federal judge in Pennsylvania has demanded that Trump offer proof of his claims of voter fraud from voting-by-mail. Former President Obama chimed in saying that Trump is trying to “actively kneecap” and “starve” the postal service. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy broke with Trump and asserted that the GOP would ensure that the Postal Service had the funding it needed saying, “We want to make sure we have an accurate election.” But McCarthy too was openly partisan about his agenda adding, “I think any Republican that gets their ballot in the mail should vote and make sure their vote is counted.”
The President of the Postal Workers Union slammed the actions to hinder USPS’s work as “shameful.” The Postal Service employs about 100,000 military veterans and hundreds of thousands more rely on receiving medication by mail. In addition to withholding the funding that the postal service requires to carry out universal vote-by-mail during the pandemic, Trump’s new appointee as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has disturbingly ordered the removal of hundreds of high-volume mail-sorting machines which contribute to quicker deliveries. Already mail delivery is being delayed with the Department of Veterans Affairs and hundreds of vets reporting that their medications delivered by mail have been seriously affected. Thirty one US Senators wrote a letter to the Postmaster General DeJoy demanding action to ensure prompt delivery of medications to vets.
As Senators leave for their summer break until September without coming to agreement on a new Covid-relief bill, new indicators show that without another stimulus the economy would continue to sputter. Retail sales slowed in July and are expected to fall even more in August. Reuters explained that, “Economists attributed the increase in retail sales over the past three months to a $600 weekly unemployment benefits supplement from the government, which amounted to almost $75 billion in July. The supplement ended on July 31, leaving economists to expect a decline in retail sales in August.” Meanwhile the stock market is booming, leading some to conclude that, “The recession is over for the rich, but the working class is far from recovered.” Meanwhile states, whose budgets provide critical social support, are devastated from the pandemic. Economists are warning that the long-term financial effects on states could be worse than that of the last recession.
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has raised on average $1 million an hour in the two days since he announced Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. A new poll by NPR/PBS Newshour conducted before the VP announcement was made shows that Biden has expanded his lead over Trump by double digits now, at 11% more support up from 8% in June. Meanwhile the first political convention of the pandemic is about to begin with Democrats convening largely remotely. The Democratic National Convention begins Monday and Associated Press described it saying, “There will be no physical gathering place, no cheering audience, no balloons. The program will consist instead of a series of online video addresses — half of which will be prerecorded — that play out for two hours each night until Biden formally accepts the Democratic presidential nomination in a mostly empty Delaware ballroom on Thursday.” Meanwhile President Trump says he will give his acceptance speech from the White House—a highly unusual move that flouts ethical norms as the White House is funded by taxpayers and a convention speech is a strictly partisan affair.
Trump wasted no time in resorting to a tried-and-tested racist attack on Senator Kamala Harris after Biden picked her as his VP, promoting a rumor created by one of his allies that she was not born in the US – the same tactic he used to question the birthright citizenship of Barack Obama. Trump said to reporters, “I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements.” In response the Biden campaign issued a scathing response saying, “Donald Trump was the national leader of the grotesque, racist birther movement with respect to President Obama and has sought to fuel racism and tear our nation apart on every single day of his presidency. So it’s unsurprising, but no less abhorrent, that as Trump makes a fool of himself straining to distract the American people from the horrific toll of his failed coronavirus response that his campaign and their allies would resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation.”
Trump also insulted the youngest member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York saying in an interview, “AOC was a poor student… This is not a smart person other than she’s got a good line of stuff.” In fact Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude from Boston University in 2011 with degrees in international relations and economics. Not one to remain quiet, she responded to Trump’s claims with a challenge saying, “Let’s make a deal, Mr. President: You release your college transcript, I’ll release mine, and we’ll see who was the better student. Loser has to fund the Post Office.” Meanwhile a reporter named S.V. Dáte on Thursday pointedly asked Trump during the White House briefing if the President regretted being such a prolific liar. Trump pretended not to hear and then pointedly ignored the question in an interaction that has gone viral.
In other news, President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has joined the bandwagon of former Trump loyalists who have turned on their leader and written books about him. Cohen’s forthcoming book is called Disloyal and in the book’s foreword that he published on his website, he wrote, “I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.”
The Government Accountability Office has just determined that the top two officials serving at the Department of Homeland Security are not legally eligible to serve. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and his Acting Deputy Ken Cuccinelli were both appointed to their positions by the President but never confirmed by the US Senate. Such a sidestepping of Senate confirmations is not legal under the Vacancies Reform Act.
In news related to the coronavirus, a new study shows that the virus-related death rate for Black Americans is twice that for White Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that those who recover from the virus can only count on having immunity from it for about three months. The CDC has also surveyed young people during the pandemic and found alarming levels of depression and anxiety, as well as suicidal thoughts and substance abuse especially among Black and brown youth.