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OurWeek In Politics (May 6, 2020-May 13, 2020)

Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week

1.US Unemployment Rate Hits Highest Level In 80 Years

The Labor Department announced this week that the unemployment rate in the US has hit its highest level since 1939 amid measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.

The US unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent in April, the highest level recorded since 1939, as many businesses shut down or severely curtailed operations to try to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. The Labor Department said 20.5 million people abruptly lost their jobs, wiping out a decade of employment gains in a single month. The speed and magnitude of the loss defy comparison. It is roughly double what the nation experienced during both the Recession of 1980-82, as well as the 2007-2010 Financial Crisis (the so-called Subprime Mortgage Crisis).

As the Coronavirus spread accelerated in March, President Donald Trump and a number of state and local leaders put forth restrictions that led businesses to suddenly shut down and shed millions of workers. Many businesses and households also canceled all travel plans. Analysts warn it could take as long as five years to return to the 3.5% unemployment rate the nation recorded in February, in part because it is unclear what the post-pandemic economy will look like, even if scientists make progress on a vaccine. President Trump, though, claimed in a Fox News interview that there would be a quick rebound. “Those jobs will all be back, and they’ll be back very soon,” Trump said. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s expected opponent in November’s presidential election, said that the jobs report illustrated “an economic disaster” that was “made worse” in part by a slow and uneven response to the crisis earlier this year.

The stark employment data could create even more urgency for a number of governors who are debating when to reopen parts of their state economies. Many are weighing the health risks and the economic toll, a harrowing choice, analysts say. Some hope that reopening quickly will get people back to work, but it will be difficult with many businesses operating at partial capacity and parents wrestling with child-care challenges. The sudden economic contraction has already forced millions of Americans to turn to food banksseek government aid for the first time,or stop paying rent and other bills. As they go without paychecks for weeks, some have also lost health insurance and even put their homes up for sale. There is a growing concern that the damage will be permanent as people fall out of the middle class and young people struggle to launch careers. “The impact on women and youth is particularly shocking and disproportionate,” said Lisa Cook, a professor at Michigan State University and former economic adviser to President Barack Obama. “Those who grew up during the Great Depression were hesitant to spend for the rest of their lives.”

Job losses began in the hospitality sector, which shed 7.7 million jobs in April, but other industries were also heavily affected. Retail lost 2.1 million jobs, and manufacturing shed 1.3 million jobs. White-collar and government jobs that typically prove resilient during downturns were also slashed, with companies shedding 2.1 million jobs and state and local governments losing nearly a million. More state and local government jobs could be cut in the coming weeks as officials deal with severe budget shortfalls. April’s unemployment rate was horrific by any standard, yet economists say it underestimates the extent of the pain. The Labor Department said the unemployment rate would have been about 20 percent if workers who said they were absent from work for “other reasons” had been classified as unemployed or furloughed. The official figure also does not count millions of workers who left the labor force entirely and the 5 million who were forced to scale back to part time.

There is a growing consensus that the economy is not going to bounce back quickly, as President Donald Trump wants, even as more businesses reopen this month. Many restaurants, gyms, and other businesses will be able to operate only at limited capacities, and customers, fearful of venturing out, are proving to be slow to return. And many businesses will not survive. All of this means the economy is going to need far fewer workers for months, or possibly years, to come. “It’s not like turning a light switch and everything goes back to where it was in February,” Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said in an interview. “We depopulated everything quickly. Repopulating it will take a lot longer.” Mester said the best cure for the economy at this point is probably more virus testing, monitoring, and investment in a COVID-19 treatment. Without those measures, people are unlikely to go out and spend again, even if stores and restaurants reopen. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty about the second half of the year,” Mester said. “Consumer confidence has been really, really bad since mid-March.”

2. 2020 Election Polling: Joe Biden Leads Donald Trump Nationwide

2020 Election polling released this week shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a clear lead over President Donald Trump.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden‘s lead over President Donald Trump now stands at five points, but Trump has an edge in the critical battleground states that could decide the electoral college, according to a new CNN poll. In the new poll, 51% of registered voters nationwide back Biden, while 46% say they prefer Trump, while in the battlegrounds, 52% favor Trump and 45% Biden. Partisans are deeply entrenched in their corners, with 95% of Democrats behind Biden and the same share of Republicans behind Trump. The two are close among independents (50% back Trump, 46% Biden, not a large enough difference to be considered a lead), but Biden’s edge currently rests on the larger share of voters who identify as Democrats. The former Vice President continues to hold healthy leads among women (55% Biden to 41% Trump) and African-Americans (69% Biden to 26% Trump). The two run more closely among men (50% Trump to 46% Biden) and Trump holds a clear edge among whites (55% Trump to 43% Biden). Surprisingly, the poll suggests Biden outpaces Trump among voters over age 45 by a 6-point margin, while the two are near even among those under age 45 (49% Biden to 46% Trump).

Though other recent polling has shown some signs of concern for Joe Biden among younger voters and strength among older ones, few have pegged the race as this close among younger voters. The results suggest that younger voters in the battleground states are tilted in favor of President Donald Trump, a stark change from the last CNN poll in which battleground voters were analyzed in March, even as other demographic groups shifted to a smaller degree. Given the small sample size in that subset of voters, it is difficult to determine with certainty whether the movement is significant or a fluke of random sampling. Nationally, Biden holds a lead over Trump among voters age 65 and older, a group that has been tilted Republican in recent presidential elections.

President Donald Trump’s biggest advantage over Joe Biden in the poll comes on his handling of the economy. Most voters, 54%, say they trust the President to better handle the nation’s economy, while 42% say they prefer Biden. An earlier release from the same CNN poll found the public’s ratings of the economy at their worst level since 2013, as a growing share said the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus outbreak could be permanent. But Biden does have the advantage as more trusted to handle the response to the coronavirus outbreak (51% Biden to 45% Trump) and health care (54% Biden to 42% Trump). Voters divide over which of the two has the stamina and sharpness to be President (49% say Trump, 46% Biden), a frequent attack Donald Trump levels against the former Vice President. But Biden outpaces Trump across five other tested attributes. His advantage is the largest on which candidate would unite the country and not divide it (55% say Biden would, 38% Trump), followed by being honest and trustworthy (53% choose Biden, 38% Trump). Biden is seen as caring more about people like you (54% Biden vs. 42% Trump), better able to manage the government effectively (52% Biden to 45% Trump) and more trusted in a crisis (51% Biden to 45% Trump).

The recent CNN polling shows that a majority of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of President Donald Trump (55%) while fewer feel negative about Joe Biden (46%). Among the 14% of registered voters who say they have a negative impression of both Trump and Biden, the former Vice President is the clear favorite in the presidential race: 71% say they would vote for Biden, 19% for Trump. Congressman Justin Amash (I-MI), who announced he is exploring a run for the presidency on the Libertarian ticket, is unknown to 80% of Americans and is viewed more unfavorably (13%) than favorably (8%). As Biden’s campaign moves closer to the selection of a Vice Presidential running mate, 38% of Democratic voters say choosing a candidate who brings racial and ethnic diversity to the Democratic ticket is one of the top two traits they would like to see in Biden’s choice, 34% name executive experience as a top-two trait, 32% say bringing ideological balance to the ticket is one of their top two criteria, and 31% say representing the future of the Democratic Party is that important. Proven appeal to swing voters and the legislative experience was a top tier concern for about a quarter of voters.

3. House Democrats Unveil $3 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package

Amid Republican opposition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a $3 trillion Coronavirus relief package this week.

House Democrats on May 12 unveiled a $3 trillion Coronavirus relief measure, an ambitious package with aid for struggling states and another round of direct payments to Americans that Republicans instantly dismissed as an exorbitantly priced and overreaching response to the Coronavirus crisis. The proposal, which spanned 1,815 pages, would add a fifth installment to an already sweeping assistance effort from the federal government, although its cost totaled more than the four previous measures combined. And unlike those packages, which were the product of intense bipartisan negotiations among lawmakers and administration officials who agreed generally on the need for rapid and robust action, the House bill represents an opening gambit in what is likely to be a bracing fight over what is needed to counter the public health and economic tolls of the pandemic. The new proposal includes nearly $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments and territories, an extension of unemployment benefits, and another round of $1,200 direct payments to American families. The measure would also provide a $25 billion bailout for the Postal Service, which the beleaguered agency has called a critical lifeline, but President Trump has opposed, and $3.6 billion to bolster election security. 

“There are those who said, ‘Let’s just pause,’ ” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, invoking a word used by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has said lawmakers should “push the pause button” on further coronavirus aid. “The families who are suffering know that hunger doesn’t take a pause. The rent doesn’t take a pause. The bills don’t take a pause. The hardship of losing a job or tragically losing a loved one doesn’t take a pause.” Senate Republicans immediately rejected the measure. But the House will return to session on May 15 to approve it, Democratic leaders said, along with historic changes to the chamber’s rules that will allow lawmakers for the first time to vote without being physically present in the Capitol. 

The measure from House Democrats underscored the gulf between the two parties over how to respond to the coronavirus crisis. Economists and policy experts warn that the government’s relief efforts to date, as unparalleled and far-reaching as they have been, have barely sustained individuals and companies affected by the pandemic, and that abandoning them could result in a deep and protracted recession. But Republicans and the White House have begun to argue that a new round of relief should wait, and Senate Majority Leder Mitch McConnell has said any such aid must be paired with a measure to give companies sweeping protections from a wide range of potential lawsuits as they try to reopen during the pandemic. President Donald Trump and White House officials have also indicated they want any further economic aid legislation to contain tax cuts, although they have yet to agree on which ones to pursue. Democrats are headed in the other direction, as Nancy Pelosi suggested in a letter this week in which she encouraged her colleagues to “think big” about additional federal aid.

Even before Democrats presented their proposal on May 12, top Senate Republicans were voicing vehement opposition, urging restraint in doling out another substantial round of taxpayer dollars as the federal government and banks scramble to distribute the funds from the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March. And with the US recording its largest monthly deficit in history last month, some Republicans have begun to balk at the prospect of another multitrillion-dollar package, calling for more limited relief. Some Republicans, however, are exploring the possibility of broadening the terms of the stimulus law as an alternative to doling out more funds, but still supporting state and local governments. A small group of Republican senators met with President Donald Trump and top administration officials to discuss giving more flexibility in spending previously allocated funds. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), a close congressional ally of President Donald Trump, said in a statement that he had requested the meeting to discuss his proposal, which would eliminate guardrails set on the $150 billion in the stimulus law, but prohibit the use of the aid for shoring up pension programs. “This is not something designed to deal with reality, but designed to deal with aspirations,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the Democrats’ proposal, adding that he would begin discussions with them once Republicans and the White House agreed on how to proceed. “We’re going to insist on doing narrowly targeted legislation

In the legislation unveiled on May 12, Democrats included provisions intended to provide more protections for essential workers. The bill would also provide for $75 billion in mortgage relief and $100 billion for rental assistance. It would substantially expand eligibility and increase the value of some tax credits targeted to the poorest Americans, like the earned-income tax credit. The bill would temporarily suspend a limit on the deduction of state and local taxes from federal income taxes, a move that would disproportionately benefit high-income taxpayers in high-tax areas, and which Democrats have pushed for since the limit was imposed by President Donald Trump’s signature 2017 tax overhaul. The bill also proposes rolling back a widely-criticized tax break for the wealthy included in the stimulus package. That provision permits married couples making at least $500,000 a year to use losses in their business to wipe out their tax bills from gains in the stock market.

Some of the most liberal members of the Democratic caucus, however, balked at the proposal, arguing that it fell short of what was needed to salvage the American economy and support vulnerable populations. The Congressional Progressive Caucus urged its members to officially inform party leaders that they were undecided on the measure, effectively threatening to block it. They also called for the vote to be delayed by a week, and for a meeting of all Democrats to discuss the legislation. “In no circumstance are we ready to vote on this on Friday,” Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an interview that “We need a full caucus conversation, an open dialogue, and we need to figure out how to address the crisis with a solution that matches its scale.” Congresswoman Jayapal has called for the federal government to guarantee business payrolls, extend emergency health coverage for the uninsured and tie relief funding for states to requirements that they follow guidelines from health experts as they begin to reopen. She said she grew frustrated when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed Democrats on a conference call that a payroll guarantee program would not be included in the proposal.

4. In A Major Defeat For Civil Liberty Advocates, Senate Rejects Proposal Limiting Federal Law Enforcement Officials From Obtaining Internet Search History Data Without A Warrant

The Senate this week rejected a proposal by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to limit federal law enforcement officials from obtaining internet search history data without a warrant.

The Senate came one vote short on May 12 of approving a proposal to prevent federal law enforcement from obtaining internet browsing information or search history without seeking a warrant. The bipartisan amendment won a solid majority of the Senate but just shy of the 60 votes needed for adoption. The 59-37 vote to allow such warrantless searches split both parties, with Republicans and Democrats voting for and against. The amendment’s authors, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana, have long opposed the expansion and renewal of surveillance laws that the government uses to track and fight terrorists. They say the laws can infringe on people’s rights. “Should law-abiding Americans have to worry about their government looking over their shoulders from the moment they wake up in the morning and turn on their computers to when they go to bed at night?” Wyden asked. “I believe the answer is no. But that’s exactly what the government has the power to do without our amendment.”

The amendment vote came as the Senate considered the renewal of three surveillance provisions that expired in March before Congress left due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The legislation is a bipartisan, House-passed compromise that has the backing of President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It would renew the authorities and impose new restrictions to try and appease civil liberties advocates. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), encouraged senators to vote against Wyden and Daines’ amendment, saying the legislation was already a “delicate balance.” He warned changing it could mean the underlying provisions won’t be renewed. “We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good when key authorities are currently sitting expired and unusable,” McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote. The House passed the compromise legislation shortly before the chamber left town two months ago, but McConnell could not find enough support to approve the measure in the Senate, and instead passed a simple extension of the surveillance laws. The close outcome on the Wyden and Daines amendment indicates that a majority of the Senate would like to see the House legislation changed to better protect civil liberties.

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank, said it was striking that the amendment failed by only one vote and said the vote total would have been “inconceivable” five years ago. “It suggests a sea change in attitudes” following revelations in problems with how the FBI has used its secret surveillance powers, Sanchez said. “It goes to the sort of collapse in trust in the intelligence community to deploy these authorities in a restrained way.” The Senate did adopt an amendment by Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont that would boost third-party oversight to protect individuals in some surveillance cases. If the Senate passes the legislation with that amendment intact, the bill would then have to go back to the House for approval instead of to the president’s desk for signature. A third amendment by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who is a longtime skeptic of surveillance programs, is expected to be considered before a final vote. Paul’s amendment would require the government to go to a traditional federal court, instead of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to get a warrant to eavesdrop on an American.

Matthew Rosehttp://ourpolitics.net
Matt studies and analyzes politics at all levels. He is the creator of OurPolitics.net, a scholarly resource exploring political trends, political theory, political economy, philosophy, and more. He hopes that his articles can encourage more people to gain knowledge about politics and understand the impact that public policy decisions have on their lives. Matt is also involved in the preservation of recorded sound through IASA International Bibliography of Discographies, and is an avid record collector.

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