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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Friday issued an impassioned plea for news networks to stop broadcasting President Donald Trump’s daily press briefings about the coronavirus pandemic on live TV, warning they are “going to cost lives.”

Maddow, in a lengthy monologue, noted how Trump has repeatedly used the conferences to spread misinformation and promote developments that he knows Americans would love to hear but actually are not true.

“There may be other people in the federal government saying things that are true but these daily briefings from the White House are a litany of things from the president that would be awesome if they were true, if they were happening, but they’re not. And so the sooner we come to terms with that, I think the better for all of us,” she said.

“If it were up to me, and it’s not, I would stop putting those briefings on live TV. Not out of spite, but because it’s misinformation,” Maddow explained.

“If the president does end up saying anything true, you can run it as tape. But if he keeps lying like he has been every day on stuff this important, we should, all of us should stop broadcasting it. Honestly, it’s going to cost lives,” Maddow concluded.

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*Dr. Fauci’s demeanor speaks volumes in photo below. MA

  • Deborah Birx, Anthony S. Fauci are posing for a picture: Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, listen as President Trump speaks at a news conference Friday.
    Deborah Birx, Anthony S. Fauci are posing for a picture: Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, listen as President Trump speaks at a news conference Friday.
Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker

President Trump was reeling from one of his worst weeks ever: The novel coronavirus was killing Americans, wrecking the economy and subsuming him and his presidency.

But in the pandemic, Trump saw an opportunity to cast himself in a new role: “Wartime president,” as he later dubbed it. Aides noted that Trump was punctual for last Saturday’s White House task force meeting, donning a navy “USA” cap and — instead of simply watching as Vice President Pence and the assembled health officials briefed the public that afternoon, as he’d initially planned — joining them at the rostrum.

All week, Trump reveled in his newfound character — that of a crisis commander steering his skittish nation through battle with what he called an “invisible enemy.” He parried questions, barked orders and stood stoically by as he accepted praise, day after day, from his underlings for his “strong leadership” and “decisive actions.”

But on Friday, Trump faltered. He argued based on “just a feeling” that, despite no scientific evidence yet, an anti-malaria drug could cure the coronavirus. He complained that he has not been credited for fixing a nationwide testing system that clearly is still broken. And when asked what message he had for Americans who were scared, he lashed out.

“I say that you’re a terrible reporter,” Trump answered to NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander. “That’s what I say.”

Trump’s past seven days at the helm of the coronavirus effort illuminated his mercurial nature and underscored his difficulty overseeing the national response to a global catastrophe largely out of his — or any other leader’s — control.

Trump — whose moods often determine policy and are almost directly correlated to the vagaries of 24-hour news cycles — has been lapsing into his self-destructive ways even when aides stress the importance of steady leadership during a national emergency.

Fixated on his portrayal in the media, Trump has used this past week to try to rewrite history in hopes of erasing the public’s memory of him dismissing the severity of threat and bungling the early weeks of the administration’s response.

“I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic,” Trump said Tuesday. Only five days earlier he had declared, “It’s going to go away,” and two days before that he had said, “It will go away. Just stay calm.

After the coronavirus was first detected in China and swept across Europe, and even after the first reported case in the United States on Jan. 21, Trump tried to wave off the danger. He was then in the throes of the impeachment battle and distracted by the Democratic presidential primaries. The president accused the media of perpetuating a hoax, arguing that news organizations were drumming up hysteria over the growing public health crisis as a way to hurt his presidency.

The nadir for Trump came March 6, when he visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta and appeared to make a mockery of the scientists’ warnings. He then decamped for the extended weekend to Palm Beach, Fla., where he played golf and hung out with friends at his Mar-a-Lago Club, which itself turned into a coronavirus petri dish.

Trump’s public posture began to shift, however, once the financial markets started to plummet. He was particularly taken with the numbers — not just the cratering Dow Jones industrial average but also the briefings he received from Vice President Pence, multiple times a day, with fresh data and figures showing how the virus could devastate the nation if left unchecked.

A new study released earlier this week by the Imperial College London — which projected that 2.2 million would die in the United States alone if no steps were taken to curb the outbreak — was particularly influential among Trump’s inner circle.

Trump also was influenced by his conversations with business leaders and wealthy supporters, who lit up the presidential phone line with angst and alarm over the Wall Street meltdown. Their message: Get it together. The world’s collapsing and you’re flaunting that you don’t care.

Trump then took a series of steps in quick succession to try to gain control over the spiraling crisis. He delivered a prime-time address to the nation. He banned travel from Europe. And he declared a national emergency.

Though Trump claims his Jan. 31 restrictions on travel from China as evidence that he always has taken the coronavirus seriously, one senior White House official said his March 11 announcement prohibiting most travel from countries in the European Union — a critical diplomatic ally and trade partner — helped truly underscore for Trump the severity of the crisis.

Trump was angry that his error-riddled prime-time Oval Office address to the nation, in which he announced the Europe ban, was widely panned, and frustrated that so few allies defended him on television the next day. But on March 13, a news conference in the Rose Garden — at which he announced a new testing website and new testing locations, both of which were half-baked at best — buoyed his spirits because he finally felt he had at least the illusion of control, aides said.

Officials also pointed to Hope Hicks — Trump’s former communications director and close confidante who recently returned to the White House after a stint in Los Angeles — as a calming presence who helped focus Trump.

Each day after the task force meets and before members present their latest message to the public, a small group retreats to the Oval Office to strategize about the news conference. The group includes whatever officials are speaking that day, as well as Pence, Hicks, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, the vice president’s chief of staff Marc Short, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Hicks often offers tonal suggestions, helping steer Trump toward the sort of more measured language that his advisers have long been pushing.

On Monday, Trump adopted the far more serious tone that his advisers had encouraged. He echoed the guidance of infectious disease experts and offered direction about what people should and shouldn’t do. He advised against gatherings of more than 10 people, as well as discretionary travel, and urged whoever could work from home to do so. He even hit the pause button on his various feuds with Democrats and the media.

“My focus is really on getting rid of this problem — this virus problem,” he said Monday. “Once we do that, everything else is going to fall into place.”

Trump spoke of the coronavirus as if it were a foreign adversary at war, drawing parallels between the ways Americans are adapting their lives to adhere to social distancing guidelines to the sacrifices citizens made during World War II. Speaking about his own leadership, Trump said Wednesday, “I view it as, in a sense, a wartime president.”

Historian Michael Beschloss said Trump’s conception of himself as a wartime leader is potentially apt.

“The war metaphor is actually a good one if what it means is that the president is acting as a commander in chief does, which is trying to orchestrate all of the power of the federal government to solve the problem and to level with the American people,” Beschloss said. “But this is not a war against a foreign enemy. It is not military. Waging a war is not the same thing as fighting an illness.”

The president’s resolve, however, did not last. Trump has never demonstrated the ability to sustain discipline or message control over an extended period — frequently following fleeting periods of calm with bursts of seeming self-sabotage — and this week was no different.

On Thursday, Trump snapped at a reporter who began a question by stating that “the economy is essentially ground to a halt.”

“Thanks for telling us — we appreciate it,” Trump said, before adding, “Everybody in the room knows that.”

By Friday, Trump was in full tirade mode. Seemingly desperate for a miracle medicine, he kept on pushing an anti-malarial drug as a potential cure-all, prompting Anthony S. Fauci, the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to gently offer a more nuanced view.

But even the normally placid-faced Fauci could barely contain himself when Trump referred to “the State Department or, as they call it, the ‘Deep State’ Department.” Fauci, standing just behind Trump’s left shoulder but still on camera, smirked and touched his fingertips to his brow to cover his face as he struggled to suppress a chuckle.

Other moments were less humorous. When Alexander, the NBC reporter, asked Trump what message he had for “Americans who are watching you right now who are scared,” Trump angrily attacked him as “a terrible reporter” and called it “a very nasty question.”

When Alexander later posed the same question to Pence, it was Trump’s No. 2 who offered the words one might ordinarily expect from a wartime president: “Don’t be afraid. Be vigilant.”


 This is how our tax dollars are spent.  MA

Where Does the US Government Get Its Money?


February 05, 2019

The US Constitution can be vague at times, but when it comes to taxes, there is little question about the government’s power. “The Congress,” James Madison writes, “shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.” In modern language, the government can tax its citizens, and it does. But just because the government has the power to do something doesn’t mean it should. Despite the Constitution’s clear mandate that the federal government may tax its citizens, taxes are a very complicated and often problematic part of American life. The US tax code is around 2,600 pages long. And there are additional tens of thousands of pages about the tax code: IRS regulations, revenue rulings, and case law covering court proceedings around the code. But a few fundamental questions can get to the root of how American taxes relate to the US debt.

What Is the Structure of the US Tax System?

Just as individuals earn wages, so does the government. Over the course of the 2018 fiscal year, the US government took in $3.329 trillion. This number reflects the amount of money the government earned from revenue, both taxes and miscellaneous sources (or nontax revenue, an insignificant source).

As we have said over the course of this series, the federal government provides services to its citizens, such as military protection, interstate regulation, and, of course, health care. These services come at a cost to those who live within the borders of the nation and benefit from government help. That cost is taxes.1

The federal government levies three main types of taxes: individual income taxes, payroll taxes, and corporate income taxes. Let’s look at each of these tax types individually to see what goes into them.

  1. Individual income tax
    The individual income tax is applied to the wages, salaries, dividends, interest, and any other income a person earns throughout a year. The US income tax system is progressive, meaning that the more you earn, the more you pay as a percentage of your income. Importantly, it is never the case that the more you earn, the less you will take home after taxes (the “moving into a higher tax bracket” story is often exaggerated and misunderstood). The federal government does not want taxes to disincentivize citizens from making money.The marginal tax rates (the rates that apply to each additional dollar of income) as of 2017—the latest year for which people have already filed—range from 10 percent at the lowest end of the spectrum to 39.6 percent at the highest end. A family earning $40,000 annually can expect to pay about 15 percent of its income in federal taxes; a household earning $10,000,000 annually can expect to pay about 39.6 percent of its income in federal taxes (effective tax rate). If you’d like to play around with these numbers to see how the marginal tax rate changes with income, use this easy tax calculator.
  2. Payroll taxes
    Payroll taxes differ from income taxes in three key ways. First, payroll taxes are paid only on the wages and salaries of employees (not on, for example, bank interest or dividends on corporate stock). Second, these taxes are used only to finance social insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare. These taxes make up the second greatest share of federal revenue of the US government. Look for payroll taxes on your pay stub under FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act).Third, payroll taxes, unlike income taxes, are regressive. This means that, as opposed to income taxes, payroll taxes become proportionately smaller compared to income as income rises. The more one earns, the smaller the share of one’s income that goes into payroll taxes. This is because only the first $118,500 of wages is subject to payroll tax. If you looked at the tax calculator (above), you may have noticed this trend. A worker making $50,000 annually in wages will pay about 7.65 percent in payroll taxes, while a worker making $250,000 a year will pay just 2.35 percent in payroll taxes (importantly, though, the lower-wage worker will get a much higher rate of return on his taxes when he collects benefits). In 2018, the Congressional Budget Office provided an estimate of an increased $1 trillion in revenue over 10 years if the government were to increase the taxable maximum from $118,500 to $250,000—although, depending on the details, this change also could increase future benefits.In general, the theory behind these taxes holds that you will get your payroll tax money back when you retire and cash in Social Security and Medicare. However, as we discussed in earlier Debt 101 pieces, this guarantee is perhaps not as certain as it used to be, as the funds are quickly being depleted. However, increasing the payroll cap is controversial and, some believe, possibly detrimental.
  3. Corporate income tax
    The corporate income tax is imposed by the US government on the income of corporations. Corporate taxes at the federal level are imposed on all US corporations and on foreign corporations that have income or activities within the United States. A new law passed on 22 December 2017 reduced the federal income tax on corporations to a flat rate of 21 percent. Prior to the passage of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, corporations making more than $18,333,333 were taxed at 35 percent, while corporations making less than $25,000 were taxed at 15 percent of income (with incremental increases in between).This new flat tax came with controversy. Many on the left believe it is a feeble attempt at “trickle-down economics,” while more conservative Americans believe it will incentivize businesses to return to the United States and thus will pay for itself while stimulating economic growth.
  4. Other revenue sources
    A fourth type of revenue, often agglomerated simply into “Other,” accounts for a relatively small percentage of total government revenue from taxes (8 percent or $278 billion in 2018). Within “Other” are mainly excise taxes and estate and gift taxes. In brief, excise taxes are taxes on certain goods and services, often items that are perceived as luxuries or as imposing costs on society—such as tobacco, alcohol, and tanning salons. Excises are imposed at the point of sale of those goods and services. Estate taxes are levied on assets bequeathed to beneficiaries after a person dies. Only assets or estates valued over a certain level are subject to this tax. Gift taxes, on the other hand, are taxes levied on recipients of donations or “gifts” by a living person of more than a certain amount ($14,000 per year currently) to other persons.

How Does US Taxation Compare to That of Other Nations?

In Fiscal Year 2018—which ended in early October of 2018—the United States raked in what seems like an astounding $3.329 trillion in just 12 months. The federal government received most of this through taxation (Figure 1). Surprisingly, however, despite the huge fundraising campaign that is the US tax system, the United States ranks low among Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries with respect to tax revenues as a percentage of each nation’s total collected income (or GDP) (Figure 2). In other words, despite our large economy, US effective tax rates are quite low compared to the other 33 countries within the OECD.

Denmark, the OECD country that taxes the most in terms of percentage of GDP, brought in just $135.585 billion USD in 2018. However, Denmark’s total GDP is tiny compared to the US, at just $301.3 billion USD versus the US’s whopping $19.39 trillion. So, while the US gross figures are large compared to Denmark’s, the US is a significantly larger country with a larger economy (GDP). But, as Hillary Clinton noted in 2015, “We are not Denmark.” Denmark provides social welfare programs with its tax revenue that the US does not (See Debt 101 Part III on the US health care system for one example).

Very real differences exist among national tax systems and thus among welfare systems (or perhaps it is welfare systems that create the tax systems!). While we cannot explore individual countries’ priorities in this primer, we suggest readers take a look at different systems and see if some seem more or less desirable than others.

What Does This Have to Do with The Debt?

Not surprisingly, federal government revenue has a lot to do with US debt. In fact, it gives us about half of the picture. Debt is the accumulation of total federal government revenue minus total federal government spending. If the US is not bringing in enough money, primarily through taxes, then our deficits, and ultimately our debt, will be large and will grow. This is currently the case. The US federal government does not tax citizens or entities nearly enough to offset its total expenses. Again, what the nation does about that is a matter of preference. The choices are: spend less, tax more, grow the economy, or use a combination of the three. The choice is up to voters (and to the economy’s ability to grow). The one option that we cannot choose, assuming we want to avoid the “Whimper” or ”Bang” situations described in Part I, is complacency.

That’s All, Folks!

In this series, we have covered critical questions about our national debt: What is the Debt and Why Does It Matter? How Do We Fix the Debt? What’s the Deal with Health Care? And now, Where Does the Government Get Its Money? We have touched upon the debt as a whole as well as its components: the expenses of the US government (specifically the number-one expense, health care), and the revenues of the government. Understanding the debt inevitably means understanding the critical need to lower it.

Since its inception in 1942, CED has worked hard to find nonpartisan and reasoned public policy solutions in the nation’s interest. Now that you have a solid understanding of the debt, we at CED urge you to look at more of our work on specific solutions ranging from changes to our health care system to tax reform to regulatory changes, all of which we believe will improve our dire debt condition. CED is certainly not alone in considering solutions to these problems. We hope that using the tools you have gathered from Debt 101 will empower you to make a difference in efforts to solve this massive problem. And CED alone will not find the solutions. That will take many organizatons, experts, legislators, and voters. We hope that what you have learned from this series will inspire you to join those seeking answers.

Notes

  1. To note, we are focusing on the federal government. State and local governments have their own unique ways of earning revenue that do not affect the national debt, but rather affect individual state debts and, of course, your take-home pay.

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By Mary Papenfuss

The president’s transcript changes “corona” to the dog-whistle misnomer as he dodges criticism of his administration’s failures in addressing COVID-19.

Trump’s news conference statement Thursday shows where the word “corona” was crossed out and replaced with “Chinese” virus as he speaks to reporters. An enterprising Washington Post photographer captured a startling image of President Donald Trump’s altered news conference script Thursday showing what appeared to be his own handwritten change from “corona” to “Chinese” to form “Chinese virus.”

It appeared he used his favorite reality-altering tool: a black Sharpie.

Photographer Jabin Botsford posted the close-up on Twitter amid raging criticism of Trump over his repeated insistence this week on incorrectly calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” Critics have slammed the implied racism of his tactic, which they say is aimed at blaming a nation and a race of people for the pandemic to distract the American public from the dangerous failings of his own administration to battle the virus

Close up of President @realDonaldTrump notes is seen where he crossed out “Corona” and replaced it with “Chinese” Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force today at the White House. #trump #trumpnotes  

A closeup of Donald Trump's news conference statement Thursday shows where the word "corona" was crossed out and replaced witJabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Trump on Wednesday dismissed the idea that the term “Chinese virus” was in any way racist. “It comes from China,” he said. “It’s not racist at all. I want to be accurate.”

It’s not accurate. Trump’s own top health advisers, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield have said it is inappropriate and inaccurate to label the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”

The correct term is coronavirus (officially SARS-CoV-2), which causes the disease COVID-19. Those are the terms international scientists, the World Health Organization, U.S. health officials, physicians and much of the general public use.

A report by Human Rights Watch on Thursday linked Trump’s use of his term Chinese virus to the fueling of “anti-Chinese sentiment” as anti-Asian hate crimes soar in the U.S.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), in an opinion article in The Washington Post on Wednesday, slammed Trump for “stoking xenophobic panic in a time of crisis” and shrugging off blame instead of doing his job to help Americans survive the pandemic.

Ted Lieu

✔@tedlieu

US House candidate, CA-33

Dear @WhiteHouse: This virus has an official name, Covid-19 and an unofficial name, Coronavirus. Your language will cause more discrimination against Asian Americans.

What would help is if you can get hospitals & first responders much more test kits & protective equipment. https://twitter.com/whitehouse/status/1240345890159824901 …

The White House

✔@WhiteHouse

Spanish Flu. West Nile Virus. Zika. Ebola. All named for places.
Before the media’s fake outrage, even CNN called it “Chinese Coronavirus.”
Those trying to divide us must stop rooting for America to fail and give Americans real info they need to get through the crisis.

 

Trump complained on Thursday that China “could have given us a lot earlier notice” about the spread of the disease there, which began in early December. Chinese officials informed the World Health Organization on Dec. 31. It wasn’t until this week that Trump first pledged to ramp up testing in the U.S., which remains far behind other nations and the current demand.

Trump actually thanked the Chinese in January for their efforts against the illness and for their “transparency.”

Akshaya Kumar

✔@AkshayaSays

Replying to @jabinbotsford @realDonaldTrump

Words matter!@hrw found COVID19 motivated anti-Asian hate crimes including physical attacks & beatings, violent bullying in schools, angry threats & discrimination in workplaces.

Instead of warning against that, our president is stoking those fireshttps://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/human-rights-dimensions-covid-19-response# …

Steve Herzfeld @american2084

Replying to @jabinbotsford and 2 others

Perhaps it’s now time for someone to use a Sharpie to cross that out and write ‘Trump’.#TrumpVirus
Trump’s exceptional incompetence is making this pandemic far worse.

268

2:21 PM – Mar 19, 2020

No matter how many times we mention or speak his name with facts, TOTUS will continue to invent what ever he believes will benefit his image (which by the way is that of an inept leader whose shortsightedness was legend before he became (gag) President).

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Slide 32 of 50: Steve Breen/The San Diego Union-TribuneSlide 14 of 50: Steve Breen/The San Diego Union-TribuneSlide 16 of 50: Bill Bramhall/New York Daily NewsSlide 21 of 50: Joel Pett/Lexington Herald LeaderSlide 44 of 50: Phil Hands/Wisconsin State JournalSlide 42 of 50: Steve Breen/The San Diego Union-TribuneSlide 36 of 50: Gary Varvel/CreatorsSlide 35 of 50: Dan Wasserman/Tribune Content AgencySlide 6 of 50: Phil Hands/Wisconsin State Journal

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The administration again fails to look after the voters. Perhaps we (voters) aren’t as well informed as we need to be. Voters are smart enough to sort out B.S. from fact and we just haven’t decided to do it. WE should not let the administration, Faux news and the political parties TELL us what we want and need. It is our (voters) place to reject what we consider wrong and tell the electeds how we feel about it. MA.

Max Zahn  Reporter

Yahoo Finance March 16, 2020

As the coronavirus outbreak highlights the need for social distancing, policymakers and public health experts want to make sure that sick workers can stay home without fear of going broke.

To that end, the Senate is set to take up on Monday a coronavirus relief bill, passed by the House and backed by President Donald Trump, that could allay the fears of workers and the public alike, requiring businesses to provide employees with paid sick and medical leave.

But the law does not apply to companies with 500 or more employees, meaning about 59 million people who work for such businesses will not receive its protections.

Workers at major corporations and top union officials said they support many of the emergency relief measures in the bill but condemned what they consider a carve-out for big corporations with outsize influence in Washington D.C — one that undermines a measure intended not only to protect employees but the public endangered by sick people forced to go to work.

To be sure, many large companies already provide workers with paid sick days, and a host of major corporations like Walmart (WMT) and McDonald’s (MCD) have recently announced additional paid leave for workers affected by the outbreak.

While the paid sick leave in these voluntary benefit packages from large companies roughly matches that mandated for smaller companies by the House bill, many of the voluntary packages fall short of guaranteeing paid family and medical leave for workers affected by the coronavirus, which the House bill also includes.

In addition, the benefits made available by large companies are revocable at any time, while the government-mandated benefits provided by smaller companies — if passed by the Senate and signed into law — will be in place for the next year. The large companies excluded from the bill, however, will have to pay for their own benefits, whereas a government tax credit will cover the benefits provided by smaller companies.

“The virus doesn’t distinguish — it doesn’t ask who you work for and neither should we,” says Dania Rajendra, the executive director of an anti-Amazon coalition group called Athena, who sharply criticized the exemption for large companies.

The coronavirus relief bill, passed by a bipartisan 363-40 vote in the House on Saturday, requires some companies to provide workers with two weeks of paid sick leave, as well as three months of paid family and medical leave totaling at least two-thirds of their pay. The benefits of the measure are limited to workers who are infected with the virus or are quarantined, as well as those either with a sick family member or forced to stay home due to school closure.

In addition to its exemption for large companies, the bill allows the Labor Department to exclude workers at any company with 50 or fewer employees from some of the provisions. In all, about 80% of American workers could lose out on the benefits, The New York Times Editorial Board recently pointed out. The bill includes a tax credit to cover the cost of the additional paid leave.

“If you are sick, stay home,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday about the Trump administration’s support legislation. “You’re not going to miss a pay check.” At a news conference on Sunday, Pence did not respond directly to a question about the exclusion of workers at large companies.

 

At a Walmart store in northwest Wisconsin, Brittney Legowski has helped hundreds of panicked shoppers find food and cleaning supplies each day, she says, but she’s afraid that one of them will give her the coronavirus.

Legowski, 21, a part-time worker who lives in Menomonie, Wisc., suffers from a chronic sinus infection and recovered from the flu only two weeks ago, using up nearly all of her accrued sick leave, she says.

“With both of these things working against me, it makes me worried,” says Legowski, who attends college full-time at nearby University of Wisconsin—Stout. “It doesn’t really feel like there’s anything I can do now, or if I were to get sick.”

“It’s extremely frustrating knowing that Walmart could be a part of this bill,” adds Legowski, who is among the 1.5 million people nationwide who work for the country’s largest employer. “It doesn’t seem like they [Walmart] care about their workers.”

Walmart, which did not respond to a request for comment, announced last Tuesday that it would provide up to two weeks of pay for employees required to quarantine by the government or the company, or for those diagnosed with the coronavirus — and the company made up to 26 weeks of payment available for employees diagnosed with coronavirus who cannot return to work after 14 days. A worker at a Walmart store in Kentucky was diagnosed with coronavirus but is improving under medical care.

“We want any associate who is not feeling well to stay home,” the company said in a statement released upon the announcement of the paid sick leave.

Similar policies were put in place in recent days by McDonald’sAmazonChipotle, and other large companies. On average, workers with one year of experience at companies with 500 or more employees receive eight sick days per year, according to a March 2019 report from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Eighty-nine percent of workers at companies with more than 500 employees receive paid sick leave, according to a September 2019 report from the BLS.

Some large companies that did not provide paid sick leave prior to the outbreak have yet to bolster their policies in light of it, including food chains like Burger King, Wendy’s, and Panera Bread. Only 45% of workers in the food service industry receive paid sick leave, according to BLS data from March 2019.

In general, workers must be diagnosed with coronavirus or be officially quarantined in order to secure paid sick leave under the potential government-mandated plans or voluntary ones from large corporations, but it has so far proven difficult for Americans to get tested for the illness.

Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House who fought to secure the coronavirus relief bill’s passage, on Saturday appeared to acknowledge the exemption for big companies. “Large employers and corporations must step up to the plate and offer paid sick leave and paid family & medical leave to their workers,” she tweeted.

The country’s most powerful labor organizations sharply criticized the exemption, blaming Trump and lawmakers for succumbing to the influence of wealthy corporations.

“In the face of this unprecedented coronavirus threat, President Trump and his allies are playing politics with our lives,” says Tim Schlittner, the communications director at AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the U.S. with about 12.5 million members. “Every worker should have paid sick leave — no questions asked.”

Mary Kay Henry, the president of the 2-million member Service Employees International Union, backed the legislation but also criticized the exemption for big companies.

“Large corporations like @McDonalds are using their power and influence to get loopholes written into COVID-19 response so they don’t have to offer paid sick leave,” she tweeted on Saturday.

As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. had 3,813 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 70 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. The number of recorded deaths worldwide from the outbreak surpassed 6,500 on Monday.

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It is apparent that our expectations of this administrations ability have been met. We have arrived at a lower point than we imagined. TOTUS has dismantled many programs that provided us with the ability to address climate change, health issues (coronavirus) and the ravages of financial mismanagement and predatory practices. We are now in the grips of a health crisis which was dismissed by TOTUS (like anything he deems colors his image). As I have written before: “Dude, it is not about you!”. Until we (voters) pull the plug, this miscreant behavior will continue to push us downwards as a country. Except for those who support him through ignorance or their own personal gain, there is no broad support for this administration. Political parties are as much a part of this debacle as TOTUS as they have allowed them selves to be split over whats good for the voters or their re election. TOTUS has shown his ineptitude since day one of his residency amid the cheers of folks who refuse to extend their gaze beyond now and consider what the end result of these poor policies will be. With the aggregated abilities of his cabinet ministers we have a net of Zero good accomplished for the people.

Our Losses:    Huge tracts of public lands that will be devastated by commercial drilling                              and mining.

Theft (yet again) of native American lands

Economic downturn due to poor fiscal policies

Cooperative  partnerships with long time allies

An Impartial Federal Judiciary from local to the high court

Disruption of normalcy (such as it is) in the Federal Government

Just to name a few. The remedy is  intelligent and well informed voters no matter the party preference (given the polarization, this may not be best practice).

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  • Peter Baker and Katie Rogers
    March 15, 2020, 10:47 AM CDTtrump bolsonaro
    (THIS WAS A PICTURE OF THE DINNER TABLE of President Donald Trump
    and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, left, during a dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago
    resort in Palm Beach, Fla., March 7, 2020. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times)
    WASHINGTON — The lights were low and the disco balls spinning as a cake
    with a fiery sparkler shooting flames into the air was brought out to a robust
    rendition of “Happy Birthday,” joined by President Donald Trump. The birthday
    girl, Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., then pumped her fist
    in the air and called out, “Four more years!”
    It was a lavish, festive, carefree Saturday evening at Mar-a-Lago a week ago in
    what in hindsight now seems like a last hurrah for the end of one era and the
    beginning of another. In the days since then, the presidential estate in Florida has
    become something of a coronavirus hot zone. A growing number of Mar-a-Lago
    guests from last weekend have said they are infected or put themselves into
    quarantine.
    A week later, the White House physician announced on Saturday night that the
    president had tested negative for the virus, ending a drama that played out for days
    as Trump refused repeatedly even to find out whether he had contracted it after
    exposure to multiple infected people. The result came less than 24 hours after the
    White House put out a misleading midnight statement saying there was no need for
    such a test at roughly the same time the president by his own account was actually
    undergoing one in deference to public pressure.
    But either way, the Mar-a-Lago petri dish has become a kind of metaphor for the
    perils of group gatherings in the age of coronavirus, demonstrating how quickly
    and silently the virus can spread. No one is necessarily safe from encountering it,
    not senators or diplomats or even the most powerful person on the planet
    seemingly secure in a veritable fortress surrounded by Secret Service agents.
    Some of last weekend’s guests worried it may be a sign of the times and the last
    party of its sort for a while at Mar-a-Lago. “I hope not,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.,
    wrote in a text message. “Humans interacting with one another are typically
    happier and more productive in my experience.”

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Jesse Drucker and Jessica Silver-Greenberg
The Trump administration has been working to relax regulations governing America’s nursing homes, including rules meant to curb deadly infections among elderly residents.a train cake sitting on top of a building: Thirteen residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., have died from the coronavirus.© Ted S. Warren/Associated Press Thirteen residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., have died from the coronavirus.The main federal regulator overseeing nursing homes proposed the rule changes last summer, before the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of nursing homes to fast-spreading diseases. The push followed a spate of lobbying and campaign contributions by people in the nursing-home industry, according to public records and interviews. 

The coronavirus has killed 13 residents at a nursing home in Washington State; dozens more residents and employees there have fallen ill. Seeking to prevent further contagion, some states, including New York, have banned most nonmedical personnel from setting foot inside nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which nationally have about 2.5 million residents.

Last July, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or C.M.S., set in motion a plan to weaken rules imposed by the Obama administration that required every nursing home to employ at least one specialist in preventing infections. The proposed rules — which the agency is completing and has the power to enact — eliminate the requirement to have even a part-time infection specialist on staff. Instead, the Trump administration would require that anti-infection specialists spend “sufficient time at the facility.”

a person wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.© Erin Schaff/The New York Times Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.Critics say the proposed requirement is so vague that it would be essentially meaningless — and dangerous.

“It adds up to less time, less infection control,” said Anthony Chicotel, a staff lawyer for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. He said the proposed change was “alarming.”

Attorneys general in 17 states have called the proposed rules a threat to “the mental and physical security of some of the most vulnerable residents of our states.”

The White House referred questions to the Medicare and Medicaid agency. In an interview on Saturday, the agency’s administrator, Seema Verma, said the proposed rule changes were not about easing up on nursing homes but “about not micromanaging the process.” The proposed changes to the infection-prevention rules, she said, could actually result in a “higher level of staffing.”

“We have to make sure that our regulations are not so burdensome that they hurt the industry,” she said.

Ms. Verma emphasized that the rules were still in the proposal stage and not yet complete. “We have to make sure that we get it right for the sake of patients,” she said.

Infection-prevention specialists are supposed to ensure that employees at nursing homes properly wash their hands and follow other safety protocols. They are widely considered the front line for stopping infections, among the leading causes of deaths in nursing homes.

Each year, about 380,000 residents are killed by infections, according to the Medicare agency. Failure to prevent them is also the leading cause of citations that state inspectors bring against nursing homes.

The coronavirus has laid bare such problems, most starkly at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., where 13 residents have died after being infected with the virus, and more than a third of the facility’s roughly 180 employees have contracted the illness.

The Kirkland facility, which scored a top quality rating of five stars from the federal government, has had problems before. In April 2019, the Medicare agency wrote it up for failing to “consistently implement an effective infection control program.” In its report, the agency described the concerns of a resident’s daughter, who said that nurses allowed her mother’s heel, which had an open wound, to touch the ground, calling the practice “unhygienic.” The agency found that the facility’s shortcomings put residents “at risk for harm and transmitting/acquiring infections.” The agency, which levied a $67,000 fine, said the problems were quickly fixed.

In recent weeks, nursing home operators nationwide have been cracking down on visitors. Ronald Silva, whose company manages two dozen nursing homes in Indiana and Georgia, said his facilities began screening all workers and vendors three weeks ago.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provided new guidance for nursing homes this month, telling inspectors to scrutinize whether employees were following key safety precautions, like regularly washing their hands. Vice President Mike Pence echoed that guidance, emphasizing that all federal inspectors should focus, at least for now, on making sure that facilities are working to prevent and control infections.

“We’re going to put all inspection resources, at the state level, focused on infectious disease, looking at nursing homes being a focal point of vulnerability and a vulnerable population,” Mr. Pence said at a press briefing on March 3.

Mr. Pence did not mention the Trump administration’s proposals to relax the Obama-era rules. The proposed changes are part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to unfetter businesses from regulations. In the case of nursing homes, relaxed regulations are projected to save the industry about $640 million a year, according to estimates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

In its first year, the Trump administration changed how nursing homes were fined when they violated rules. Previously, they were typically penalized for every day in which a violation persisted. But the agency changed the guidance for inspectors, encouraging them to hand out a single fine — rather than a series of daily penalties — for most infractions. Under the Trump administration, the average fine imposed on a nursing home has dropped more than 30 percent from $41,260 to $28,405, according to an analysis of federal data by Kaiser Health News.

Ms. Verma said the changes to how nursing homes are fined were meant to increase consistency across the industry.

The agency also weakened a rule that would have made it easier for nursing home residents and their families to sue over claims of elder abuse, sexual harassment and wrongful death.

“Together these changes gut enforcement,” said Toby Edelman, a senior lawyer at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonprofit legal assistance group for the elderly. “They are a gift to the industry.”

The administration’s moves came after intense lobbying by the nursing home industry, including by the firm run by Brian Ballard, Mr. Trump’s friend and a fund-raiser. Parlaying his personal connections to Mr. Trump, Mr. Ballard has become one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, with the most clients of any registered lobbyist last year, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. His firm has lobbied on behalf of nursing homes in his home state, Florida, for years, according to public records. (He was also a lobbyist for Mr. Trump’s Florida golf course, the Doral.)

After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Ballard was retained by a leading trade group for the nursing home industry, the American Health Care Association. His firm, Ballard Partners, has earned $930,000 in lobbying fees from the group since Mr. Trump took office, records show.

Ms. Verma, who emphasized that she didn’t even know Mr. Ballard, said she didn’t like to hear from lobbyists. “I tell folks I am not going to meet with D.C. insiders,” she said. “I want to meet with people on the front lines.”

A spokeswoman for the nursing home trade group said that loosening the requirement to have an infections specialist on staff would allow facilities to “provide greater flexibility to meet” to thwart infections.

In November, Mr. Trump was honored by a group of nursing home operators at a fund-raising event at a packed ballroom at the InterContinental hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The event drummed up more than $3 million for his re-election campaign through a political action committee called America First Action.

Flanked by two American flags onstage, Mr. Trump singled out one of the executives, Eliezer Scheiner, who donated $750,000, the most of any attendee.

“I want to thank Eli Scheiner for doing such an incredible job,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Scheiner, who owns 22 nursing homes across the country, received a round of applause.

Mr. Scheiner’s nursing homes have received subpar ratings from federal regulators. Since 2017, they have been cited more than 40 times for slipshod infection control. In 2018, inspectors at one of Mr. Scheiner’s nursing homes in Balch Springs, Texas, spotted a staff member who failed to wash or sanitize her hands before cleaning a resident’s anal area. During the same inspection, another staff member was written up for allowing a resident’s feeding tube to touch the inside of a bathroom trash can.

Two years ago, Mr. Scheiner was accused of fraud by a federally appointed bankruptcy court trustee in Connecticut. The trustee accused Mr. Scheiner and his partner of transferring more than $1 million of assets out of one of their nursing home companies into other entities they controlled, a few months before the nursing home company filed for bankruptcy.

Mr. Scheiner didn’t respond to requests for comment. He and the bankruptcy trustee agreed to a settlement this year.

In addition to no longer requiring nursing homes to designate at least one part-time “infection preventionist,” the Trump administration also has proposed adjusting a requirement that facilities must assess what they might need for patient care, from staffing levels to medical equipment. Under the proposal, facilities would have to do such assessments every two years instead of every year.

Matthew Goldstein and Robert Gebeloff contributed reporting.

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By John Detrixhe  March 13, 2020

Future of finance reporter

 

Robert Shiller won the Nobel prize in 2013 for his work on financial bubbles, and more recently he has written about the narratives and popular stories that affect the economy.

The Yale economics professor says disruptions like the Great Depression can often be traced to a pessimistic idea, like the fear that the economy’s best days are behind us. The spread of coronavirus is different because it’s real—it is causing people to stay home and avoid going out, which is causing the gears of commerce to stop turning. Shiller says the coronavirus’s affect on the US economy is something we haven’t quite seen before.

Quartz spoke with Shiller about record low interest rates, the 1918 influenza pandemic, and secular stagnation. The conversation was edited and condensed for clarity.

Quartz: You’ve written about the importance of narratives in causing economic downturns. How does that factor in right now?

Shiller: It is too soon to say, but I think it is likely to affect markets. We are talking about major disruptions to our everyday activity—peoples’ hoarding, which is very obvious, but also they’re pulling back. They’re not going out, they’re trying to avoid contagion. That creates anxieties and it also creates real income falls for many people and for companies.

This is a very unusual situation. People didn’t anticipate that anything like this could happen just a few months ago. The idea that, in this modern time, we could actually have a serious epidemic and that the government would be struggling to contain it.

What measures are most effective at supporting the economy during a disruption like this one?

It’s hard to be effective at a time like this when the source of the problem is real. In 1933 when Roosevelt took office, he said there is “no plague of locusts,” referring to the Depression. He was referring to a biblical story about a plague of locusts that came and destroyed a crop. There was no pandemic—no pandemic of insects or of viruses. But now there is. This is really different.

How should policy makers and investors be analyzing this situation, especially with US interest rates at record lows?

It’s hard to analyze it because we’ve never been here before. This term structure of interest rates depressed below 1% is just unknown in history. Even during the Great Depression, the lowest long-term bond yields got was around 2%. So we are just in uncharted territory. I don’t know how to bring historical insights into where we are right now.

 

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We have to fight this virus. If there’s any kind of fiscal policy that should be entertained, it should focus first on what we can do to hit this epidemic.

As to why interest rates are so low, are central banks’ swollen balance sheets part of the explanation?

Well that’s what quantitative easing was supposed to do, it was supposed to raise prices of bonds and lower yields. It has had some effect in that direction. But the sudden change in recent weeks is not due to that. It’s due to the coronavirus.

Do you think these low interest rates can make asset bubbles more likely by encouraging risk taking?

Historically the stock market hasn’t correlated very much with interest rates. There are cases—interest rates were very high in the late 70s, early 80s, and the stock market was very low. So that makes sense. But at other times they don’t really correlate that much.

The narrative keeps changing. Right now we have a unique narrative in US history. The other example that comes close is the 1918 influenza pandemic, but that wasn’t exactly the same narrative because it came right before the Armistice in World War I. So the peak month for talk about the influenza pandemic was October 1918. And the Armistice was signed in November 1918.

So there was a recession, but the stock market didn’t take a big hit back then. The narrative was different. The overriding narrative then was the war. So we don’t really have another example.

With interest rates declining, do you think the US is becoming more like Japan or Europe?

There has been a narrative about that. I call it the secular stagnation narrative. It started around 2011 with Larry Summers. It has been a factor. The secular stagnation is a fear that from now on, or for a very long time, we’re going to be stagnated. And that low interest rates are a sign of that.

That is another narrative. It hasn’t been talked about as much under Donald Trump’s regime because the economy has started to look strong. Our unemployment rate has been so low that it doesn’t seem to confirm the traditional secular stagnation narrative.

What are your thoughts on secular stagnation narrative?

Well we’ve seen interest rates low for some time now. And there might be some merit to it. I tend to think of it as a story though. The term secular stagnation arose first in the Great Depression. That’s how you have a Great Depression, when people think that this is going to last forever. Especially around 1938 when Alvin Hansen coined the term secular stagnation, it seemed like we can’t get out of it.

But that’s not the focal point of attention right now. The focal point of attention is at this moment the coronavirus. So these low interest rates are sign of fear, right now—fear of a virus.

Do you think monetary policy has been asymmetric—quick to stimulate the economy when it slows, but reluctant to normalize after growth resumes?

Interest rates should go back up to more normal levels, and when we had unemployment rates so low, they could well have done that. But their policy hasn’t been disastrous. The real disaster has come in with this virus, I have to say.

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