Mid-Day Digest

Apr. 23, 2020

THE FOUNDATION

“Excessive taxation … will carry reason and reflection to every man’s door, and particularly in the hour of election.” —Thomas Jefferson (1798)

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IN TODAY’S DIGEST

FEATURED ANALYSIS

U.S. Job Losses Hit Great Depression-Era Mark

Thomas Gallatin

The Labor Department released weekly numbers on jobless claims today, and as everyone anticipated, it’s another horrible report. Some 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of jobless claims since the China Virus pandemic shut down the nation up to 26.4 million. For shocking perspective, the U.S. has now erased all job gains since the Great Recession, and it happened in just five weeks. Is it any wonder people have been protesting the lockdown measures across several states?

CNBC reports, “With virtually all other economic indicators pointing to the worst downturn since the Great Depression, jobless claims are seen as the most current way of measuring how deeply conditions have been impacted by social distancing associated with the coronavirus. The total is far worse than anything the U.S. has seen before, with the previous one-week peak of 695,000 dating back to October 1982.”

While the initial wave of jobless claims primarily came from the lower-income service, restaurant, and hotel industries, that’s changing. Bloomberg notes, “White-collar employees largely escaped the initial wave of coronavirus layoffs, often because the nature of their jobs meant it was easier to do them from home. But even companies that managed to stay afloat have seen a big squeeze on revenue and profits, as large areas of the economy are shuttered. That’s triggering a second round of job cuts or furloughs, with office workers taking a bigger hit this time.”

Democrats are obtuse, as usual. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was questioned during a press conference about the growing economic crisis that has resulted from his continued lockdown order. He lashed out by suggesting that, in lieu of protesting, laid-off workers “go take a job as an essential worker” because hardship “doesn’t equal death.”

As bad as that was, America’s favorite socialist, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was arguably even more out of touch. AOC once again displayed her complete ignorance of basic economics as she argued, “When we talk about this idea of reopening society, you know, only in America does the president — when the president tweets about ‘liberation’ — does he mean ‘go back to work.’ When we have this discussion about going back or reopening, I think a lot people should just say, ‘No, we’re not going back to that.’” She then ridiculously asserted, “We’re not going back to working 70-hour weeks just so that we could put food on the table and not even feel any sort of semblance of security in our lives.” Evidently, AOC believes that the relationship between working and earning money is either entirely coincidental or flat-out oppressive. In her case, the former might be understandable, as she receives a $174,000 annual taxpayer-funded salary no matter what she does or doesn’t do.

Finally, everyone needs to brace themselves, as this economic crisis looks to be closer to the beginning than the end. And you can bet the Democrats are readying Joe Biden’s campaign to push for the biggest “tax the rich” campaign in generations. They will use the economic shock, massive job losses, and debt as fodder for an enormous surge of the Left’s political playbook favorite — class warfare.

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Economic Devastation Demands Government Downsizing

Arnold Ahlert

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, this nation has hemorrhaged jobs, largely in the private sector. Now, some government employees are about to face the same reality.

On Monday, Michigan’s Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Stamas called for a layoff of “nonessential” state employees in response to budget concerns precipitated by the pandemic. “We are facing a serious financial challenge, and we need to consider all options to adjust our spending — such as cuts to popular programs and laying off nonessential state employees, including those in the Legislature,” Stamas stated in a press release. “The state is doing everything it can to address the global COVID-19 pandemic, but we also must soon make the hard decisions to address its tremendous impact to our economy and state budget. The longer we wait to act, the deeper the cuts will need to be.”

Stamas’s counterpart in the Michigan House, Rep. Shane Hernandez, questioned the term nonessential and wondered whether those employees whose departments are seeing less demand for service should also be laid off.

Both men are Republicans, and Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who froze hiring “nonessential” workers in March, remained noncommittal regarding Stamas’s statement. “We’re going to have to work together and make some tough decisions,” she hedged.

Unfortunately, the numbers don’t lie. The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates a $1-$3 billion revenue shortfall this fiscal year, and another $1-$4 billion hit on next year’s budget in a state where more than one million people have already filed for unemployment benefits. Whitmer, who has raised her political profile by issuing some of the most draconian restrictions on state residents in the entire nation — restrictions that far more resemble an abuse of power than science or common sense — may ultimately become the biggest victim of her own “success.”

In New Jersey, a plan released by Democrat Senate President Stephen Sweeney would cut the hours and pay of 100,000 public workers. The Senate Majority Office estimates state and local government employers would save $750 million over three months by furloughing a quarter of the state’s 400,000 public-sector workforce.

Yet there is a bit of fiscal legerdemain in play here: State employees would take unemployment for several days a week over three months and keep their healthcare benefits. As a result, many workers could actually end up making more money than they currently earn, because the recently passed CARES Act increased weekly unemployment benefits by $600.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has yet to comment on the proposal. Yet he warned that because state tax revenues “are falling off a cliff” there will be historic layoffs if the federal government doesn’t bail out his state and/or state lawmakers don’t back his plan to borrow up to $9 billion from the Federal Reserve.

A federal bailout is problematic, to say the least. New Jersey has been a fiscal disaster for years, largely due to unfunded public pensions and retiree healthcare benefits. A report issued in 2017 revealed that a state with a $35 billion budget had liabilities of $253 billion. And before the crisis hit, annual pension and benefit costs were projected to rise to $11.3 billion by FY2023 — and consume 27% of the state’s budget.

All of this was precipitated by the state’s public-sector unions, which politically leveraged “compliant” politicians to increase their benefits, irrespective of the state’s ability to underwrite them. Thus a federal bailout would reward years of taxpayer-be-damned fiscal irresponsibility.

New Jersey is hardly alone. Democrat Illinois State Senator Don Harmon has requested a $41 billion bailout from Congress — including $10 billion for Illinois’s underfunded public pensions — citing the economic burden of the coronavirus pandemic on the state’s ability to raise revenue. Even The New York Times admitted that problems with the state’s pension system “far predate the coronavirus” and that “it is considered by experts to be one of the worst funded in the nation.”

How many other states will follow suit? In 2018, Moody’s Investors Service estimated that public pensions are underfunded by $4.4 trillion. Again, that was before restrictions imposed in varying degrees throughout the country ravaged private-sector employment — which underwrites public-sector employment.

That dynamic, which precipitated an exodus from high-tax states long before the pandemic, is likely to be exacerbated. Many Americans, justified or not, have long resented underwriting employees that, in a majority of cases, make more money, have better benefits, and enjoy better job security than their private-sector counterparts.

In other words, maybe it’s time to downsize government employment at every level, especially at the state and local levels where it increased from 6.4 million workers in 1960 to 19.5 million workers by 2017.

Such numbers make a mockery of the idea that America is a nation of limited government as outlined in our Constitution. So do government unions per se, as their self-promoting and self-protecting rules are the antithesis of government of, by, and for the people.

On the heels of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act already doling out roughly $250 billion to the states (equivalent to three months’ revenue for all states combined), many states are demanding to be allowed back to the trough for a bigger bailout. “You know the state governments are broke, to use a very blunt term,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lamented. “You know the state governments are now responsible for the reopening and the governors are going to do the reopening, and they have no funds to do it.”

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a far more realistic way of dealing with this untenable status quo: States should declare bankruptcy in lieu of the feds bailing out profligacy.

All well and good, but McConnell and his fellow members of Congress should also lead by example. They should suspend their own salaries and benefits in solidarity with their fellow Americans. So should state governors, mayors, council members, etc. — as the same people whose constitutionally dubious diktats deem millions of private-sector workers “nonessential.”

Will they? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave us all a great indication. Her suggestion that Americans have “found our ways to keep our spirits up during these trying times,” while posing in front of a high-end freezer stocked with expensive ice cream — even as she was holding relief for distressed small businesses hostage to her progressive wishlist — will resonate long after the crisis has passed.

Especially among thoroughly dispirited Americans forced to wait for hours in lines at food banks.

There are many, truly dedicated government employees performing invaluable services. But it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff — utterly irrespective of the labyrinth of union rules that inevitably protect incompetents.

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Congress to Blame for Ivy League Bailout Kerfuffle

Nate Jackson

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act was Congress’s typically ham-handed way of throwing (massive amounts of) money at a problem without laying down good guidelines or thoroughly weighing the consequences. As Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, said of the Small Business Administration’s beleaguered lending program, “When you do things in an emergency situation, they’re going to be far less than perfect.” Government, er, imperfection was demonstrably at play with the $14 billion in bailout cash for institutions of higher learning, including well-endowed Ivy League schools.

Understandably, much of the public ire has been directed at the Ivy League. All eight schools have enormous endowments — Harvard ($41 billion), Yale ($30 billion), Princeton ($26 billion), University of Pennsylvania ($15 billion), Columbia ($11 billion), Cornell ($7 billion), Dartmouth ($6 billion), and Brown ($4 billion) — yet were slated for nearly $62 million in collective aid. Harvard’s endowment, for example, is nearly three times the size of the entire federal aid program for higher education. Someone with a brain at one of those ivory towers should have said, “Hey, maybe we don’t need millions of dollars in bailouts.”

Unfortunately, it took public ire and direct rebukes from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Donald Trump for some of these schools to either withdraw aid applications or reject or return money already awarded.

Yet government shouldn’t get a pass when it comes to such screwed-up programs. Congress passed a faulty law. It’s true some schools shouldn’t have applied, but they were legally eligible. As DeVos noted, “Congress required by law that taxpayer Emergency Relief funds be given to all colleges and universities, no matter their wealth.” In that sense, why wouldn’t the Ivy League schools take their cut?

DeVos argued for balance: “Schools with large endowments should not apply for funds so more can be given to students who need support the most. It’s also important for Congress to change the law to make sure no more taxpayer funds go to elite, wealthy institutions.”

There’s no question that many colleges and universities are struggling mightily, just as the nation’s businesses are. The University of Michigan, for example, says it faces losses of $1 billion and will cut executive pay and faculty salaries, among other things. We suspect the greater danger lies ahead for small schools, and especially private institutions.

There’s already growing support for a second round of aid that will likely dwarf the first round. As with government aid to individuals and businesses, this is understandable given that government mandated the closures in the first place. That doesn’t mean future generations won’t get the bill.

(Correction: Stanford is not an Ivy League school, though it was referenced in news reports about these bailouts. The article has been amended to remove it.)

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More Great Analysis

Harold Hutchison says the Fight Over Economic Shutdown Reveals a Lot.

Thomas Gallatin reviews what President Trump’s order on immigration actually does.

Bill Barr made some fascinating comments in support of individual and business liberty in the face of some overly onerous state lockdowns.

And some steakhouse regulars display the American Spirit with a generous tip.

Don’t Miss Alexander’s Column

Read Exposing the Leftmedia’s False CV19 Narrative. We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Li Wenliang and Sen. Tom Cotton for their commitment to reveal the truth.

If you’d like to receive Alexander’s Column by email every Wednesday, update your subscription here.

NEWS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Jordan Candler

Above the Fold

  • Weekly jobless claims hit 4.4 million, bringing five-week total to more than 26 million (CNBC)

  • Consequently, the U.S. economy has now erased all job gains since the Great Recession (CNBC)

The Latest on Coronavirus

  • For the record: Five problems with the study that claims “more deaths” from treating coronavirus with hydroxychloroquine (PJ Media)

  • Vaccine expert says he was cut for criticizing hydroxychloroquine, but there’s more to the story — including the doctor having previously lauded its acquisition (The Daily Wire)

  • Meanwhile, said doctor hires infamous Blasey Ford lawyers (Washington Examiner)

Government & Politics

  • Mitch McConnell says he favors allowing states to declare bankruptcy in lieu of bailouts (Bloomberg)

  • Trump now says he “totally disagrees” with Georgia Gov. Kemp’s decision to reopen businesses in the middle of coronavirus pandemic (CNBC)

  • AOC suggests low-income workers should boycott after coronavirus shutdown ends (New York Post)

  • Tone-deaf elite colleges back away from million-dollar bailouts amid criticism of billion-dollar endowments (Politico)

Heartland

  • Louisville drive-in church lawsuit settled, which emphasizes “reasonable steps” for safety (The Volokh Conspiracy)

  • Texas judge’s 30-day coronavirus mask order blasted as “ultimate government overreach” (Fox News)

  • Hate-hoaxer Jussie Smollett’s malicious prosecution lawsuit dismissed by judge (Fox News)

Other Notables

  • New $310 billion in aid for small businesses is likely already used up, likely stymying new applicants (CNBC)

  • Iran Guard reveals secret space program in satellite launch, which Gary Bauer says “is a disturbing development because the technology used to launch satellites into space is very similar to the technology used to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles” (ABC News)

  • Osama bin Laden wanted to kill Obama so “totally unprepared” Biden would be president, declassified docs show (Fox News)

Closing Arguments

  • Policy: Scarcity has a way of forcing sobriety: Coronavirus debt will (hopefully) kill the Left’s policy dreams (Washington Examiner)

  • Policy: Principles for the coming federal education bailout (The Hill)

  • Humor: AOC drops by the unemployment office to tell people how lucky they are not to have oppressive jobs (The Babylon Bee)

For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.

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VIDEOS

Video: Chinese Communists Crack Down on Hong Kong — The ChiComs exploit social isolation to arrest pro-democracy leaders and dissidents.

Video: Leftmedia Backs Communist Wuhan Myths to Slap Trump — “We need to talk about the Chinese news media — the one right here in America.”

BEST OF RIGHT OPINION

For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.

SHORT CUTS

Insight: “The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.” —Lord Acton (1834-1902)

Food for thought: “Citing polls to support shutdowns is absurd. Asking 100 [people] if they support it, 70 who still have jobs, while 30 are desperately trying to feed their kids & save their homes, is a recipe for civil disorder.” —Dan Bongino

For the record: “We are already sheltered in place and the environmentalists would tell us we still aren’t doing enough to save the world.” —Erick Erickson

Exhibit A: “We’d have to keep doing this even [locking down] more and do it for the next 30 years to really begin to bend the curve on the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” —Project Drawdown Executive Director Dr. Jonathan Foley

Village idiot: “I didn’t really think about where is the electricity [for electric cars] coming from. I assumed solar panels would last for ever [sic]. I didn’t know what went into the making of them.” —Michael Moore (“That’s awesome. Moore has been going around for decades promoting politicians and policies that would basically wreck the economy. He wanted a coronavirus-level economic tsunami before we’d ever heard of Wuhan and its bats. But he had no idea what he was talking about.” —Bryan Preston)

Revisionist history: “In stark contrast, Vice President Biden and the intelligence community repeatedly warned Trump not to buy the Chinese government’s spin and to take steps to prepare America to combat the coronavirus. Trump disregarded those warnings, and now the U.S. leads the world in both confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths.” —Joe Biden campaign

Braying jackass: “You want to go to work? Go take a job as an essential worker.” —New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Non compos mentis: “As far as I’m concerned, what’s happening with this administration, it’s akin to war crimes.” —Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Braying jenny: “When the president tweets about liberation — does he mean go back to work? When we have this discussion about going back or reopening, I think a lot people should just say, ‘No, we’re not going back to that. We’re not going back to working 70-hour weeks just so that we could put food on the table and not even feel any sort of semblance of security in our lives.’” —Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

And last… “26M Americans unemployed. 4.4M more this week. That’s a 16% unemployment rate. 1 in 6 workers without a job. If that doesn’t make you sick to your stomach… then you must be a politician still collecting your paycheck.” —Liz Wheeler

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TODAY’S MEME

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.

TODAY’S CARTOON

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For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.


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