Headlines: July 30, 2020
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The United States’ economy is in free fall as the nation’s Gross Domestic Product was reported on Thursday to have fallen nearly 10% in the second quarter of the year. The fall is the largest ever since record keeping began in 1947. The GDP is considered the most comprehensive measure of national goods and services produced. The New York Times explained that, “On an annualized basis, the standard way of reporting quarterly economic data, G.D.P. fell at a rate of 32.9 percent.” Putting the numbers into context the Times also explained that, “The collapse was unprecedented in its speed and breathtaking in its severity. The only possible comparisons in modern American history came during the Great Depression and the demobilization after World War II, both of which occurred before the advent of modern economic statistics.” The Labor Department also released its latest unemployment figures on Thursday showing that another 1.43 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week alone. This was the second consecutive week of increasing numbers after 1.42 million filed for benefits the week before. The grim economic news comes at the same time that lawmakers are allowing jobless benefits of $600 a week to expire while they remain unable to come to agreement on the next Covid-relief bill. Senate Republicans want to reduce benefits drastically and instead offer one-time stimulus checks or bonuses and have touted a state-led effort to replace 70% of people’s salaries months later. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Democrats and Republicans were “very far apart” on the bill. Greenpeace activists are now targeting Republicans with actions demanding that they pass the Democrat-led House bill called the HEROES Act which spends three times the amount that GOP Senators want to.
Associated Press suggested that, “Soon after the government issued the bleak economic data, President Donald Trump diverted attention by suggesting a ‘delay’ in the Nov. 3 presidential election.” Early on Thursday morning Trump posted a tweet saying, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA.” He then added, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Trump pinned the tweet to the top of his Twitter feed. Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said, “This is a coup in the making.” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison warned, “This is how democracy dies in the USA. Don’t let it happen.” Analysts pointed out that Trump cannot legally change the election date and would require a change in federal law in order to do that. Even if the date were changed, the Constitution requires that a newly elected president be sworn in on January 3rd and begin his or her term on January 20th. None of Trump’s usual Republican allies are on board and already House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have shot down the idea of postponing the election.
A day earlier Trump posted yet another controversial tweet with clearly racist overtones. He wrote, “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood…” He added, “…Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!” The AFFH rule is the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule that President Obama implemented in 2015 as an addition to the 1968 Fair Housing Act that was aimed at reducing racial segregation in housing. Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of many critics who denounced his tweet, wrote, “This is blatant racism from the President of the United States.”
The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the existing housing crisis in the United States and jeopardizing new affordable housing construction. The federal eviction moratorium that has just expired with no extension in sight, did not forgive rents during the pandemic and a new report shows that renters in the US now owe $21.5 billion in back rent. One legal advocate told Reuters that without a solution there, “will be a staggering surge in homelessness unlike anything we have seen.”
Meanwhile Covid-19 infections continue to surge through the nation and on Thursday former Presidential candidate Herman Cain passed away after a battle with the virus. The 74-year old Republican and Trump loyalist had last appeared in public at Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, photographed without a mask on. He had railed against mask wearing but later changed his tune. Cain had also fueled speculation about Covid-19 conspiracies. A day before his death Cain tweeted about Covid-19 vaccine skepticism saying, “Our government, and our media, have incinerated their credibility. So, is it any wonder that people are skeptical?” There is a new death from Covid-19 on average every minute in the US now and the death rate is rising even faster than before. The states of California, Florida, and Texas all saw 1-day record increases in deaths on Wednesday, just weeks before schools would have reopened for the fall. A new poll shows that voters are increasingly disapproving of state governors over their responses to the pandemic.
A day after House Representative Louis Gohmert tested positive for Covid-19 after undergoing routine White House screening, the House Sergeant-at-Arms and a top physician for Congress recommended strict mask-wearing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now mandated all members of Congress wear masks during House business, threatening to remove anyone who violates the order. Meanwhile Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Ro Khanna introduced a bill to provide 3 free reusable masks for every American through the US Postal Service.
The late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, was laid to rest on Thursday. Trump refused to attend Lewis’s funeral. Instead former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton attended the services. Lewis had written an op-ed for the New York Times to published on the day of his funeral. The posthumous op-ed was an attempt to inspire Americans to unify against racism and hatred. Lewis wrote about his visit to Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington DC during the recent protests. He said, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Protesters in Portland, Oregon, who had faced the violence of Trump’s federal agents may see an end to the paramilitary occupation around their courthouse. The agents are apparently preparing to pull out of the city on Thursday. But on Wednesday night there was an even stronger federal presence as Portland activists showed up in the thousands as they have been every night, and were teargassed and shot at. Associated Press analyzed arrest records showing that 95% of those targeted by federal agents were local residents, most with no criminal record, and many are college students. The average age of the arrestees was 28.
And finally a federal judge has just blocked Trump’s wealth test for Green Card applicants in a blow to the President’s anti-immigrant agenda. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit by several states against Trump’s “public charge” rule that made legal residency applicants ineligible if they had ever used government benefits.