By Robert A. Vella
Jobless claims jumped again last week to a record 26 ½ million workers laid-off since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic surged uncontrollably across the U.S. This economic disaster has already exceeded the Great Recession triggered by the 2008 financial crisis, and it is fast approaching the level of damage during the Great Depression which resulted from the Wall Street crash of 1929. These three events are by far the worst economic collapses of the last 100 years in America. In each case, a Republican president sat in the White House – Herbert Hoover, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump, respectively; and, each of them governed by prioritizing laissez faire capitalism over all other concerns. These men believed, or claimed to believe, that the only way to ensure the nation’s prosperity was to enable the consolidation of wealth (i.e. income inequality) by emasculating government regulations of business. In other words, if you just pushed government out of the way, the “free market” would solve all societal ills. During the 1980s, this philosophy was known as “Reaganomics” and the “trickle down” theory.
But, as history has proved time and again, the reverse is true. Unrestrained capitalism as a beneficial social construct is dependent upon “Good Samaritans” wielding financial and political power. If business executives act with a certain amount of altruism, if they really care for their workers and customers, if they hold moral and ethical principles in high esteem, then maybe such a system could work. However, the fundamental flaw in that design is the ruinous effects of “Bad Apples.” When greed and the lust for power allows a few businesses to gain a competitive advantage, then antisocial practices spread quickly throughout the system as executives succumb to the lowest common denominator in an act of self-survival. Eventually, this corruption becomes so rampant that it endangers the health and well-being of the entire populace.
While Hoover in 1929 and Bush in 2008 were both caught largely unaware of the corruption on Wall Street happening under their noses, Trump in 2020 has instead been an aggressive perpetrator of corruption. His tyrannical behavior is so egregious that even Wall Street’s pales in comparison. Trump – like his fascist predecessors – does not merely want to exploit society as a capitalist, he wants to subjugate it as a dictator.
However, there is something profoundly different between the prior crises and the current one. The economic collapse now ravaging the U.S. and the world wasn’t caused by a reckless financial crash. Rather, it resulted from a viral pandemic; and, more specifically, from democratic governments dramatically weakened by decades of laissez faire incursions. When the thoroughly corrupt Donald Trump moved into the White House, our collective fate was sealed.
Here’s today’s news:
It took only five weeks for the U.S. economy to wipe out all the job gains it added over the last 11 years.
The coronavirus and forced business closures throughout the U.S. again buoyed the number of Americans applying for state unemployment benefits, which last week totaled 4.427 million, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Combined with the four prior jobless claims reports, the number of Americans who have filed for unemployment over the previous five weeks is 26.45 million. That number exceeds the 22.442 million jobs added to nonfarm payrolls since November 2009, when the U.S. economy began to add jobs back to the economy after the Great Recession.
Rick Bright was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health.
In a scorching statement, Dr. Bright, who received a Ph.D. in immunology and molecular pathogenesis from Emory University, assailed the leadership at the health department, saying he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” and repeatedly described by the president as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the virus.
“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in his statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”
“My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this — to confront and defeat a deadly virus that threatens Americans and people around the globe,” Dr. Bright wrote. “To this point, I have led the government’s efforts to invest in the best science available to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“Unfortunately, this resulted in clashes with H.H.S. political leadership, including criticism for my proactive efforts to invest early into vaccines and supplies critical to saving American lives. I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections,” he said, adding that hydroxychloroquine was “promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit.”
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a candid warning Tuesday in a Washington Post interview: A simultaneous flu and coronavirus outbreak next fall and winter “will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” adding that calls and protests to “liberate” states from stay-at-home orders — as President Trump has tweeted — were “not helpful.”
The next morning, Trump cracked down with a Twitter edict: Redfield had been totally misquoted in a cable news story summarizing the interview, he claimed, and would be putting out a statement shortly.
By Wednesday evening, Redfield appeared at the daily White House briefing — saying he had been accurately quoted after all, while also trying to soften his words as the president glowered next to him.
“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on Feb. 25.
According to the Journal, Trump was angry with Messonnier after her statement resulted in a dip in the stock market. The same day, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said that the virus was “contained” in the U.S.
The next day Trump repeatedly said he did not think an outbreak was “inevitable” and appointed Vice President Pence as the head of the administration’s coronavirus task force.
Democrats have speculated that Trump was unhappy with Messonnier, who has not appeared at White House briefings since February.
WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell took a hard line on Wednesday against giving cash-short states more federal aid in future emergency pandemic relief legislation, saying that those suffering steep shortfalls amid the coronavirus crisis should instead consider bankruptcy.
Mr. Cuomo accused Mr. McConnell of hyperpartisanship, criticizing him for distinguishing among states based on their political leanings, rather than “states where people are dying. Why don’t we think about that? Not red and blue. Red, white and blue. They’re just Americans dying.”
Representative Peter T. King of New York, a fellow Republican, called Mr. McConnell’s remarks “shameful and indefensible.” “To say that it is ‘free money’ to provide funds for cops, firefighters and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate,” Mr. King said on Twitter on Wednesday night.
States do not now have the ability to declare bankruptcy to reduce their financial obligations, but Mr. McConnell raised the possibility of letting them do so rather than pouring federal money into rescuing them, which would push the federal government deeper into debt.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is urging President Trump to walk back a signing statement from last month’s massive coronavirus package, warning it could be used to sideline inspectors general (IGs).
Grassley, in a letter to Trump, said he was “concerned” the White House document from March 27 could “negatively impact the ability of IGs to independently communicate with Congress.”