State of the Union: by Paul Field

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Administration’s war on the public health experts

https://www.axios.com/trump-public-health-experts-cdc-fauci-e1509d14-0cf1-4b1c-b107-7753bf95395d.html

Trump's war on the public health experts - Axios

A pandemic would normally be a time when public health expertise and data are in urgent demand — yet President Trump and his administration have been going all out to undermine them.

Why it matters: There’s a new example almost every day of this administration trying to marginalize the experts and data that most administrations lean on and defer to in the middle of a global crisis.

Here’s how it has been happening just in the past few weeks:

  • The administration has repeatedly undermined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most recently, Trump has criticized the CDC’s school reopening guidelines, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declared that “kids need to be in school,” and the administration has reportedly ordered hospitals to bypass the CDC in reporting coronavirus patient information.
  • It has repeatedly undermined Anthony Fauci. Trump distanced himself on Wednesday from an op-ed attack by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, but longtime Trump aide Dan Scavino also called the infectious diseases specialist “Dr. Faucet” in a Facebook post accusing him of leaking his disagreements. And the White House gave a opposition research-style list of the times Fauci “has been wrong” to the Washington Post and other media outlets.
  • Trump himself undermined public health experts generally with his retweet of former game show host Chuck Woolery’s “everyone is lying” tweet — which blamed “The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust.”
  • Trump has made numerous statements suggesting, over and over again, that we wouldn’t have as many COVID cases if we just tested less. (From his Tuesday press conference at the White House: “If we did half the testing we would have half the cases.”)

The impact: The result is that the CDC — which is supposed to be the go-to agency in a public health crisis — is distracted by constant public critiques from the highest levels. And Fauci, “America’s Doctor,” is the subject of yet another round of stories about whether Trump is freezing him out.

  • “The way to make Americans safer is to build on, not bypass, our public health system,” Tom Frieden, a former CDC director under Barack Obama, said in a statement to Axios about the efforts to sideline the agency.
  • “Unfortunately, as with mask-up recommendations and schools reopening guidance, the administration has chosen to sideline and undermine our nation’s premier disease fighting agency in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years,” Frieden said.
  • And Fauci, in an interview with The Atlantic, said of the efforts to discredit him: “Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that … It doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them.”

The other side: The White House insists there’s no problem. “President Trump has always acted on the science and valued the input of public health experts throughout this crisis,” said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews.

  • Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh closed ranks with the experts as well. “President Trump has said repeatedly that he has a strong relationship with Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Fauci has always said that the President listens to his advice,” he said.
  • And Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Michael Caputo declared that “the scientists and doctors speak openly, they are listened to closely, and their advice and counsel helps guide the response.”
  • “Frankly, when it comes to this tempest in a teapot over Dr. Fauci, I blame the media and their unending search for a ‘Resistance’ hero, for turning half a century of a brilliant scientist’s hard work into a clickbait headline that helps reporters undermine the president’s coronavirus response,” Caputo said.

Between the lines: Murtaugh deflected several times when asked whether there was a deliberate strategy to marginalize the CDC and the experts: “The President and the White House have consistently advised Americans to follow CDC guidelines. The President also believes we can open schools safely on time and that we must do so.”

  • However, one administration official said there were parts of the CDC school reopening guidelines that were impractical, and noted that kids can also suffer long-term harm by staying out of school too long.

Our thought bubble, by Axios White House reporter Alayna Treene: The responses make it clear that the White House and the Trump campaign don’t want to advance the narrative that they’re deliberately battling with America’s health experts, or that there’s any kind of strategy behind it.

The bottom line: When the history of this pandemic is written, it will show that the public health experts who were trying to fight it also had to deal with political fights that made their jobs harder.

 

 

 

 

 

Merkel says pandemic reveals limits of ‘fact-denying populism’

https://thehill.com/policy/international/506393-merkel-says-pandemic-reveals-limits-of-fact-denying-populism?fbclid=IwAR1gnqKU3igIHkK-e2p4iZjGPTfswBYJFMjvf3ewGH9uRPNIp5ROr6y5qns#.XwZdo2fqr7s.facebook

Covid-19 has exposed the limits of 'fact-denying populism', Merkel ...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told European Union (EU) countries Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic is showing the limits of “fact-denying populism” as she urged the bloc to reach an agreement on an economic recovery package.

Merkel said that the EU “must show that a return to nationalism means not more, but less control,” according to France 24.

Without naming any specific nations, Merkel said: “We are seeing at the moment that the pandemic can’t be fought with lies and disinformation, and neither can it be with hatred and agitation.”

“Fact-denying populism is being shown its limits,” she added. “In a democracy, facts and transparency are needed. That distinguishes Europe, and Germany will stand up for it during its presidency.”

The pandemic has killed more than 100,000 people in the 27 EU nations and sparked what is expected to be the largest recession the continent has experienced in decades.

On Tuesday the EU released a report predicting the bloc’s economy will contract more than initially expected due to coronavirus-related lockdowns.

Merkel on Wednesday joined EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni in urging the commission to quickly reach an agreement on the 750 billion-euro stimulus package proposed earlier this year.

“The depth of the economic decline demands that we hurry,” Merkel told lawmakers, according to The Associated Press. “We must waste no time — only the weakest would suffer from that. I very much hope that we can reach an agreement this summer. That will require a lot of readiness to compromise from all sides — and from you too.

 

 

 

 

Administration Formally withdraws US from WHO

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/506214-trump-administration-formally-withdraws-us-from-WHO-

Trump administration informs Congress the US is withdrawing from WHO

The White House has officially withdrawn the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO), a senior administration official confirmed Tuesday, breaking ties with a global public health body in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. withdrawal is effective as of Monday and has been submitted to the United Nations secretary-general, the official said.

Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted that the administration informed Congress of the withdrawal.

“To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” the senator tweeted.

The formal notification of withdrawal concludes months of threats from the Trump administration to pull the United States out of the WHO, which is affiliated with the United Nations. President Trump has repeatedly assailed the organization for alleged bias toward China and its slow response to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

But public health experts and Democrats have raised alarms that the decision may be short-sighted and could undercut the global response to the pandemic, which has infected 11.6 million people worldwide. The U.S. has the highest number of reported cases in the world at nearly 3 million.

They have also argued that some of the WHO’s initial missteps can be attributed to China’s lack of transparency in the early stages of the outbreak.

The president first froze funding for the WHO in April while his administration conducted a review of its relationship with the entity. Weeks later, he wrote to the WHO demanding reforms but did not specify what those reforms would be.

Trump announced at the end of May the U.S. was “terminating” ties with the WHO.

The move was cheered by conservatives who had accused the WHO of harboring pro-China bias and argued the global body was not a productive use of funds.

Critics of the WHO have pointed to its initial assertion that the coronavirus could not be spread via human-to-human transmission, and Trump has harped on the organization’s opposition to travel bans after he imposed one on China.

Trump and his allies have also lashed out at the WHO for failing to stop early warning signs of the outbreak.

China first alerted the WHO to the presence of a cluster of atypical pneumonia in the city of Wuhan on Dec. 31 after the WHO picked up reports through its epidemic intelligence system. But there is evidence to indicate the virus was circulating in Wuhan as early as mid-November.

The United States contributes upwards of $400 million annually to the WHO — making it the group’s largest contributor — and public health experts have warned that a suspension of funds would severely damage the organization.

 

 

 

 

Cartoon – Coronavirus Leadership

Hake's - JACK DAVIS ARTWORK ON NETWORK PROMO BUTTON FOR "CHICO AND ...

Federal Reserve – Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress

https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/testimony/powell20200616a.htm

Federal Reserve Board - Structure of the Federal Reserve System

Chair Powell submitted identical remarks to the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., on June 17, 2020.

Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, and other members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Federal Reserve’s semiannual Monetary Policy Report.

Our country continues to face a difficult and challenging time, as the pandemic is causing tremendous hardship here in the United States and around the world. The coronavirus outbreak is, first and foremost, a public health crisis. The most important response has come from our health-care workers. On behalf of the Federal Reserve, I want to express our sincere gratitude to these dedicated individuals who put themselves at risk, day after day, in service to others and to our nation.

Current Economic Situation and Outlook
Beginning in mid-March, economic activity fell at an unprecedented speed in response to the outbreak of the virus and the measures taken to control its spread. Even after the unexpectedly positive May employment report, nearly 20 million jobs have been lost on net since February, and the reported unemployment rate has risen about 10 percentage points, to 13.3 percent. The decline in real gross domestic product (GDP) this quarter is likely to be the most severe on record. The burden of the downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans. Instead, those least able to withstand the downturn have been affected most. As discussed in the June Monetary Policy Report, low-income households have experienced, by far, the sharpest drop in employment, while job losses of African Americans, Hispanics, and women have been greater than that of other groups. If not contained and reversed, the downturn could further widen gaps in economic well-being that the long expansion had made some progress in closing.

Recently, some indicators have pointed to a stabilization, and in some areas a modest rebound, in economic activity. With an easing of restrictions on mobility and commerce and the extension of federal loans and grants, some businesses are opening up, while stimulus checks and unemployment benefits are supporting household incomes and spending. As a result, employment moved higher in May. That said, the levels of output and employment remain far below their pre-pandemic levels, and significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery. Much of that economic uncertainty comes from uncertainty about the path of the disease and the effects of measures to contain it. Until the public is confident that the disease is contained, a full recovery is unlikely.

Moreover, the longer the downturn lasts, the greater the potential for longer-term damage from permanent job loss and business closures. Long periods of unemployment can erode workers’ skills and hurt their future job prospects. Persistent unemployment can also negate the gains made by many disadvantaged Americans during the long expansion and described to us at our Fed Listens events. The pandemic is presenting acute risks to small businesses, as discussed in the Monetary Policy Report. If a small or medium-sized business becomes insolvent because the economy recovers too slowly, we lose more than just that business. These businesses are the heart of our economy and often embody the work of generations.

With weak demand and large price declines for some goods and services—such as apparel, gasoline, air travel, and hotels—consumer price inflation has dropped noticeably in recent months. But indicators of longer-term inflation expectations have been fairly steady. As output stabilizes and the recovery moves ahead, inflation should stabilize and then gradually move back up over time closer to our symmetric 2 percent objective. Inflation is nonetheless likely to remain below our objective for some time.

Monetary Policy and Federal Reserve Actions to Support the Flow of Credit
The Federal Reserve’s response to this extraordinary period is guided by our mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices for the American people, along with our responsibilities to promote the stability of the financial system. We are committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy in this challenging time.

In March, we quickly lowered our policy interest rate to near zero, reflecting the effects of COVID-19 on economic activity, employment, and inflation, and the heightened risks to the outlook. We expect to maintain interest rates at this level until we are confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve our maximum-employment and price-stability goals.

We have also been taking broad and forceful actions to support the flow of credit in the economy. Since March, we have been purchasing sizable quantities of Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities in order to support the smooth functioning of these markets, which are vital to the flow of credit in the economy. As described in the June Monetary Policy Report, these purchases have helped restore orderly market conditions and have fostered more accommodative financial conditions. As market functioning has improved since the strains experienced in March, we have gradually reduced the pace of these purchases. To sustain smooth market functioning and thereby foster the effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions, we will increase our holdings of Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities over coming months at least at the current pace. We will closely monitor developments and are prepared to adjust our plans as appropriate to support our goals.

To provide stability to the financial system and support the flow of credit to households, businesses, and state and local governments, the Federal Reserve, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, established 11 credit and liquidity facilities under section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act. The June Monetary Policy Report provides details on these facilities, which fall into two categories: stabilizing short-term funding markets and providing more-direct support for credit across the economy.

To help stabilize short-term funding markets, the Federal Reserve set up the Commercial Paper Funding Facility and the Money Market Liquidity Facility to stem rapid outflows from prime money market funds. The Fed also established the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, which provides loans against good collateral to primary dealers that are critical intermediaries in short-term funding markets.

To more directly support the flow of credit to households, businesses, and state and local governments, the Federal Reserve established a number of facilities. To support the small business sector, we established the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility to bolster the effectiveness of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s (CARES Act) Paycheck Protection Program. Our Main Street Lending Program, which we are in the process of launching, supports lending to both small and midsized businesses. The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility supports lending to both businesses and consumers. To support the employment and spending of investment-grade businesses, we established two corporate credit facilities. And to help U.S. state and local governments manage cash flow pressures and serve their communities, we set up the Municipal Liquidity Facility.

The tools that the Federal Reserve is using under its 13(3) authority are appropriately reserved for times of emergency. When this crisis is behind us, we will put them away. The June Monetary Policy Report reviews the implications of these tools for the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.

Many of these facilities have been supported by funding from the CARES Act. We will be disclosing, on a monthly basis, names and details of participants in each such facility; amounts borrowed and interest rate charged; and overall costs, revenues, and fees for each facility. We embrace our responsibility to the American people to be as transparent as possible, and we appreciate that the need for transparency is heightened when we are called upon to use our emergency powers.

We recognize that our actions are only part of a broader public-sector response. Congress’s passage of the CARES Act was critical in enabling the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department to establish many of the lending programs. The CARES Act and other legislation provide direct help to people, businesses, and communities. This direct support can make a critical difference not just in helping families and businesses in a time of need, but also in limiting long-lasting damage to our economy.

I want to end by acknowledging the tragic events that have again put a spotlight on the pain of racial injustice in this country. The Federal Reserve serves the entire nation. We operate in, and are part of, many of the communities across the country where Americans are grappling with and expressing themselves on issues of racial equality. I speak for my colleagues throughout the Federal Reserve System when I say, there is no place at the Federal Reserve for racism and there should be no place for it in our society. Everyone deserves the opportunity to participate fully in our society and in our economy.

We understand that the work of the Federal Reserve touches communities, families, and businesses across the country. Everything we do is in service to our public mission. We are committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy and to help assure that the recovery from this difficult period will be as robust as possible.

Thank you. I am happy to take your questions.