OurWeek In Politics (March 5, 2019-March 12, 2019)

Here are that main events that occurred in Politics this week:

1. President Donald Trump Proposes Record $4.75 Trillion Budget 

President Donald Trump sent to Congress this week a $4.75 trillion budget that will result in four consecutive trillion dollar deficits, make draconian cuts to domestic programs.

On March 11, President Donald Trump sent to Congress a record $4.75 trillion budget plan that calls for increased military spending and sharp cuts to domestic programs like education and environmental protection for the 2020 fiscal year. President Trump’s budget, the largest in federal history, includes a nearly 5% increase in military spending and an additional $8.6 billion for construction of a wall along the border with Mexico. It also contains what White House officials called a total of $1.9 trillion in cost savings from mandatory safety-net programs, like Medicaid and Medicare, the federal health care programs for the elderly and the poor. The budget is not likely to have much effect on actual spending levels, which are controlled by Congress. Democratic leaders in both the House and the Senate pronounced the budget dead on arrival and President Trump’s budgets largely failed to gain traction over the previous two years, when fellow Republicans controlled both chambers.

President Donald Trump’s budget quickly antagonized Democrats while making clear the contours of how he plans to run for re-election. It is replete with optimistic economic assumptions and appeals to his core group of constituents (Evangelical Protestants and White Catholics), and it includes deep diminutions to programs that Democrats hold dear. Additionally, the budget projects trillion-dollar deficits until 2025 and does not balance the budget until 2035 at the earliest. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the proposal “a gut punch to the American middle class.” He said President Trump’s requested cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, “as well as numerous other middle-class programs, are devastating, but not surprising.” Additionally, Congressman John Yarmouth (D-KY) the chairman of the House Budget Committee said that the “budget is a recipe for American decline.” “It’s laughable that this budget is subtitled ‘Promises Kept,’ because in fact there are a lot of promises that have been violated in this budget,” Congressman Yarmouth further added.

Even some prominent Republicans greeted the President’s budget request somewhat coolly because it did not go far enough to reduce the growing national debt. Congressman Steve Womack (R-AR) noted that only by cutting mandatory spending could the federal government seriously reduce deficits and debt. “President Trump’s budget takes steps in the right direction, but there is still much work to do,” Congressman Womack said in a statement. On the other hand, Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) reacted positively to the budget, claiming in a Twitter post that it is the only viable plan that will lead to an eventual balanced budget. In response to the budget’s mixed reaction, administration officials fanned out to defend the budget. Russ Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, blamed Democrats and Congress for the ballooning deficit, even though Democrats have not had full control of Congress since 2011. “We do have large deficits. That’s why we’re here transparently saying that we have a problem as a country,” Vought said. “It takes a long time to get out of that mess.”

2. Democrats Reject Fox News as 2020 Debate Host, Citing Its Close Ties to President Trump

The Democratic Party this week rejected Fox News’ bid to hose several Democratic Primary debates, citing the networks close ties to President Donald Trump

The Democratic National Committee said on March 6 that it has barred Fox News (arguably the most-watched TV network in American history) from hosting or televising a candidate debate for the party’s 2020 primary election, an unusually pointed criticism of a cable news channel whose pundits, commentators, and reporters are closely aligned with President Donald Trump. The committee’s chairman, Tom Perez, said in a statement that Fox News “is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates.” Perez cited an article published this week by The New Yorker that reported on ties between the President and the network, which he deemed an “inappropriate relationship.”

Fox News, which devotes nearly all of its programming to propaganda in support of President Donald Trump, was seen in broadcast circles as a long shot to sponsor a gathering of Democratic candidates. But the network had made an aggressive pitch to party officials, noting, for instance, that the “Fox News Sunday” anchor, Chris Wallace, had won plaudits after moderating the third general election debate in 2016. “We hope the D.N.C. will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic presidential debate,” Bill Sammon, managing editor of Fox News’s Washington bureau, said in a statement. “President Donald Trump weighed in on March 6, sarcastically praising the Democrats’ decision. “Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!” he wrote on Twitter. President Trump often tweets idle threats, but his message raised the prospect that he could boycott debates in the 2020 race if he took issue with the network affiliation of a chosen moderator. In early 2016, President Trump did boycott a primary debate, which was ironically sponsored by Fox News. He had objected to the inclusion of the anchor Megyn Kelly as a moderator.

Televised coverage of Presidential campaigns is a relatively new innovation itself, having only started in 1940, when NBC’s pioneering New York TV station W2XBS presented coverage of the 1940 campaign (to ~3,000 TV set owners in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). Televised Presidential candidate debates, on the other hand, are an even more recent development, having only started in 1960 with the famous Kennedy-Nixon debates, which many believe helped sway the election in John F. Kennedy’s favor and secured him a narrow victory over Richard Nixon. Since then, Presidential debates have become sought-after events for networks eager to score high ratings and serve as gatekeepers in the early months of the nominating cycle, when viewers are forming their initial impressions of the candidates. Democratic officials had signaled some openness to collaborate with Fox News on a debate in 2019 or 2020, saying they were trying to reach a broad national audience. But the party came under pressure this week after the report in The New Yorker, by the veteran journalist Jane Mayer, which laid out the sometimes symbiotic relationship between Trump and the network he follows closely. Fox News did not sponsor a formal debate during the 2016 Democratic nominating process, but it did host a town hall debate featuring Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders in March 2016.

3. February Job Report Reveals Mixed Economic Picture

According to the Department of Labor, job growth slowed sharply in February, revealing a mixed economic picture in the US

Job growth came to a near halt in February after a blistering start to the year, with nonfarm payrolls increasing by just 20,000 even as the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent (its lowest level since 1970), the Labor Department reported on March 9. February 2019 was the worst month for job creation since September 2017, when two major hurricanes hit the employment market, offset somewhat by a solid increase in wages. The month fell short of the relatively modest expectations of 180,000 from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The unemployment rate had been projected at 3.9 percent from January’s 4 percent. “I think it’s a very fluky number,” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council under President Donald Trump, told CNBC in a “Squawk on the Street” interview.

The jobless rate fell in part because of the vagaries the Labor Department uses to calculate the headline rate, there was an increase of 198,000 in those considered not in the labor force, while those classified as unemployed fell by 300,000 and the ranks of the employed decreased by 45,000, according to the household survey. A more encompassing unemployment rate that counts discouraged workers as well as those holding jobs part time for economic reasons often called the “real” unemployment rate, plunged to 7.3 percent in February from 8.1 percent in January (its lowest level since 2001). Those employed part-time for economic reasons tumbled by 837,000 to 4.3 million while those completing temporary jobs fell by 225,000, which a Labor Department official said was a consequence of the government shutdown that ended in late January. “A shockingly low jobs figure for February does not change the labor market narrative by itself,” said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide. “The three-month trend in job gains remains solid while survey data suggest no letup in demand for workers by employers.” Among major worker groups, the jobless rate for Hispanics also declined sharply to 4.3 percent from 4.9 percent in January. The rate for African-Americans rose two-tenths of a point to 7 percent, while the level for whites dropped to 3.3 percent from 3.5 percent.

In addition to the lower overall unemployment rate, the report showed that average hourly earnings increased by 3.4 percent year over year, easily the best of the economic recovery that began in 2013. That compares with a 1.5 percent increase in the consumer price index for all urban consumers from January 2018 to January 2019. Economists had been expecting a wage increase of 3.2 percent. “Certainly the headline is somewhat shocking given how big January’s number was,” said Marvin Loh, global macro strategist at State Street. “It certainly shows a weakening trend given where we were six or nine months ago. But it also shows that wage growth, and expectations that this low unemployment rate is going to drive higher wages, is still there.”

The job numbers came amid questions about growth in 2019 following a year where GDP accelerated at close to a 3% pace. Economists generally expect very little growth in the first quarter as the US recovers from a lackluster holiday shopping season and concerns persist about a global slowdown that is finding its way into the domestic economy. Federal Reserve officials of late have said they also see growth decelerating, citing weakness in China’s economy that comes on top of the US-China trade war. Other worries include a messy Brexit and a weakening US housing market and business investment picture.

4.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Rules Out Impeaching President Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi annouced this week that she would not support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, arguing that such a position will divide the country and directly play into the hands of the President

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set a high bar for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, saying he is “just not worth it” even as some on her own party clamor to start proceedings. Pelosi said in an interview with The Washington Post on March 11 that she would not be in favor of impeaching Trump. “Unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” Pelosi said. While she has made similar comments before, Pelosi is making clear to her caucus and to voters that Democrats will not move forward quickly with trying to remove Trump from office. And it is a departure from her previous comments that Democrats are waiting on special counsel Robert Mueller to lay out findings from his Russia investigation before considering impeachment.

That thinking among Democrats has shifted in part because of the possibility that Mueller’s report will not be decisive and because his investigation is more narrowly focused. Instead, House Democrats are pursuing their own broad, high-profile investigations that will keep the focus on Trump’s business dealings and relationship with Russia, exerting congressional oversight without having to broach the subject of Impeachment. Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), one of the lawmakers leading those investigations, said he agrees with Pelosi and Congress needs “to do our homework.” Congressman Cummings said impeachment “has to be a bipartisan effort, and right now it’s not there.” “I get the impression this matter will only be resolved at the polls,” Cummings said.

Some new freshman Democrats who hail from solidly liberal districts have not shied away from the subject of impeaching President Trump. For example, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) used a vulgarity in calling for Trump’s impeachment the day she was sworn in. Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who is bankrolling a campaign pushing for Trump’s impeachment, shot back at Pelosi on Monday: “Speaker Pelosi thinks ‘he’s just not worth it?’ Well, is defending our legal system ‘worth it?’ Is holding the president accountable for his crimes and cover-ups ‘worth it?’ Is doing what’s right ‘worth it?’ Or shall America stop fighting for our principles and do what’s politically convenient.” Other lawmakers who have called for impeachment looked at Pelosi’s comments more practically. Congresman Brad Sherman (D-CA), who filed articles of impeachment against Trump on the first day of the new Congress in January, acknowledged that there is not yet public support for impeachment, but noted that Pelosi “didn’t say ‘I am against it if the public is clamoring for it.’”

Republicans alternately praised Pelosi and were skeptical. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “I agree” in response to Pelosi’s words. Sanders added of impeachment, “I don’t think it should have ever been on the table.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said it was a “smart thing for her to say,” but Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he does not think it’s “going to fly” with some of Pelosi’s members. “I do believe what Speaker Pelosi understands is that what they want to do is going to require far more than what they have now, so I think they are hedging their bet on it,” Collins said. Freshman Democrats who are from more moderate districts and will have to win re-election again in two years have been fully supportive of Pelosi’s caution. “When we have something that’s very concrete, and we have something that is compelling enough to get a strong majority of Americans, then we’ll do it,” said Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-CA). “But if it’s going to be a political disaster for us, then we’re not going to do it.”

the author

Matt is a student at Seton Hall Law School and graduated from Monmouth University. Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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