Headlines: July 21, 2020
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Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell unveiled some details of the next Congressional coronavirus relief bill on Tuesday morning that includes a second set of stimulus checks for Americans households and an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). He did not reveal much more, but if some of his recent speeches in his home state of Kentucky are any indication, there will likely be an income limit of $40,000 a year for recipients of stimulus checks. Only a few weeks ago Republican lawmakers appeared completely unwilling to consider more financial relief for Americans struggling with the economic impacts of the pandemic. What McConnell did not say, but what news outlets are reporting, is that the bill will likely also include, “a payroll tax cut, very little aid to state and local governments, and measures tying school funding to the reopening of classrooms.” Democrats have already signaled strong opposition to these aspects of the bill and they may find some Republicans on their side too.
While the bill appears to include blanket payments to those making $40,000 or less, a new poll shows that the economic impacts of the virus are affecting Americans differently depending on their demographic. According to the latest Covid Response Tracking Study by NORC at the University of Chicago, “For some, the virus has meant lost income or struggles to pay bills on time — particularly among Hispanic, Black and younger Americans. Others, most notably college-educated and older Americans, have transitioned to working from home or have experienced the nation’s economic decline through a dip in the value of their investments.” In Oklahoma, the lines of people waiting to file unemployment benefits are so long, they are making headlines. Many jobless Oklahomans are camping out the night before or sleeping in their cars while they wait for appointment tickets that are handed out in the morning. Oklahoma is one of the nation’s poorest states and currently has a whopping 14.7% unemployment rate. But so far Senate Republicans seem to have no plan to extend the $600-a-week in jobless benefits that kept millions of Americans afloat, despite the fact that economists are warning of financial disaster if the program is allowed to expire. Corporate America continues to receive windfalls however as a little noticed headline in the Wall Street Journal showed that those companies making profits in high-tax nations abroad will get some of the tax relief they asked for from the Treasury.
In other news, President Donald Trump has threatened to send more federal officers to more Democratic-run cities including 150 agents heading to Chicago. Trump’s test case in Portland, Oregon, where hundreds of federal officers aggressively clamped down on protesters received widespread condemnation. Trump directly threatened New York state governor Andrew Cuomo saying that if he didn’t control a “crime wave” in New York city the federal government would step in. Meanwhile New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the victim of a shocking behavior from GOP Congressman Ted Yoho who cursed at her using a misogynist term in view of one of his Republican colleagues Roger Williams, and journalist Quentin Young. The Congresswoman apparently offended Yoho when she connected higher levels of crime to increasing poverty. Williams claimed he heard nothing while Ocasio-Cortez remarked, “I’ve never had that kind of abrupt, disgusting kind of disrespect levied at me.” Ocasio-Cortez has meanwhile introduced a bill aimed at Trump’s deployment of federal officers to Democratic cities that requires all officers prominently display on their uniform their badge numbers and agency name.
A new nationwide poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News has found that a majority of Americans now believe that American society is racist. Fifty six percent of those polled say that Black and Hispanic Americans face racial discrimination. There is also growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement and for athletes who kneel during the national anthem as a protest against racist police violence. Such changing opinions may be fueling what appears to be a slightly greater chance of police being charged as the city of Detroit, Michigan just filed felony charges against a police officer for launching an unprovoked violent attack on three journalists who were clearly credentialed. Meanwhile Democrats in the state of Virginia are showing a united front on a move to overhaul police practices and the criminal justice system, while Minnesota lawmakers just voted to pass a ban on chokeholds during arrests and the so-called “Warrior” style training that encourages police aggression. In St. Louis, Missouri, the wealthy white couple who pulled their guns out at passing Black Lives Matter protesters have finally been charged with gun-related crimes.
In election related news, the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday revealed an ambitious $775 billion plan to fund universal pre-school, child care, and elder care in the US. Data show that Democrats are benefitting from high voter turnout during the primary elections, as well as record fundraising numbers – which bodes well for the party in November’s general election. Biden is also courting Muslim American voters – something presidential candidates rarely do. In an MSNBC interview on Monday Biden slammed Trump’s lack of a plan on the pandemic saying, “He raised the white flag. He has no idea what to do. It’s zero. It’s only one thing he has in mind — how does he win reelection?” Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is a top contender for the Biden Veepstakes, wrote a clear-eyed op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday laying out her “Must-Do” list on the pandemic that included public health measures and economic relief.
As Trump’s popularity remains low in the polls, he has now taken to “tele-rallies” over the weekend as many of his supporters appear fearful of congregating indoors for traditional rallies as the pandemic rages. On Monday Trump posted to Twitter to reiterate his xenophobic views of the “invisible China Virus,” saying that it was “Patriotic to wear a face mask,” because, “There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!” Hours later, he was seen at an indoor fundraising event at his Washington DC hotel without a mask on. Scientific research continues to confirm that mask-wearing, which is a cheap and easy tool, can curtail the spread of the coronavirus dramatically. Now there is a consensus that wearing a mask can help reduce the severity of the disease even if you get infected while wearing one because it lowers the amount of viral particles one is exposed to. In fact the Wall Street Journal pointed out that Europe has managed to markedly reduce the spread of the disease through widespread public adoption of hand-washing, social distancing, and mask-wearing. Even the US Federal Reserve is now admitting that wearing a mask is the single easiest solution to getting the economy back on track.
In other coronavirus-related news, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted a comprehensive review of the US’s response to the pandemic and concluded that the failure to report vital data is crippling the nation. According to the report’s authors, “More than half the essential information—strategic intelligence that leaders need to turn the tide against COVID-19—is not reported at all.” Meanwhile the CDC itself is now claiming that the actual numbers of infections could be far higher than documented – 2 to 13 times higher. Part of the problem is an on-going delay in reporting test results as labs are overwhelmed. A new study of 65,000 people in South Korea that could influence how or if schools reopen this fall has found that children older than 10 could be just as contagious as adults if they are infected. Meanwhile executives of pharmaceutical companies involved in Covid-19 vaccine development testified to Congress on Tuesday claiming that they can indeed manufacture a safe vaccine in record time.
And finally, the New York City attorney suspected of targeting federal district judge Esther Salas by killing her son and injuring her husband has been revealed as Roy Den Hollander. Hollander was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was found to have been a so-called men’s rights activist. And Fox News is facing a fresh set of charges of rape and sexual harassment as per a new lawsuit. The suit accuses top executives of protecting a former host who they allege was a sadistic rapist.