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Trump administration privately warned wealthy donors while publicly downplaying the coronavirus

October 15, 2020 in Blogs

By Igor Derysh

The Trump administration publicly downplayed the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic while giving major Republican donors private warnings. The information helped elite traders “gain financial advantage during a chaotic three days when global markets were teetering,” according to The New York Times.

President Donald Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat posed by the virus in February. He claimed on Feb. 24 that it was “very much under control” in the U.S., and the stock market was “starting to look very good to me.”

That same day, Trump’s economic team privately gave a less optimistic briefing to board members of the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank whose members often donate to Republican candidates.

Top economic adviser Larry Kudlow also sought to publicly insist that the virus was “contained,” and the economy was “holding up nicely” on Feb. 25.

But privately, Kudlow was not as certain in his Hoover presentation later that day, where he was quoted as saying the virus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know.”

The private comments were included in a lengthy email by hedge fund consultant William Callanan, who detailed the three-day Hoover event to hedge fund manager and top Republican donor David Tepper before it was distributed it to others.

“What struck me,” Callanan wrote, was that nearly all officials brought up the virus “as a point of concern, totally unprovoked.”

Kudlow “revised his statement about the virus being contained,” he added.

Tomas Philipson, the chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic advisers, acknowledged to The Times that he had expressed uncertainty during the private briefing. Kudlow also did not dispute that he had made the comments. The former CNBC anchor told the outlet that he believed his comments were not materially different from his public ones.

“There was never any intent on my part to misinform,” he said.

The Hoover Institution, which is led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, includes board members like Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch, who did not attend the meeting.

There has also been a revolving door between the think tank and the Trump administration. Joshua Rauh, one of the economists who spoke at the meeting, has since rejoined the institution. Kevin Hassett, who moderated the panel and served as the top White House …read more


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A 3-way fight between Pelosi, McConnell and Trump rages — and stimulus hangs in the balance

October 15, 2020 in Blogs

By Salon

With less than three weeks until Election Day, Donald Trump faces the increasing likelihood that millions of struggling Americans will languish in needless poverty after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that he does not plan to bring either the president’s or House Democrats’ stimulus proposals to the Senate floor.

The underlying issue is the proposed size of the stimulus legislation. McConnell, a Republican, is pushing for a $500 billion proposal, claiming that pricier alternatives are too expensive. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, is pushing for a bill that would spend $2.2 trillion in relief, while Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been dispatched to suggest stimulus relief in excess of $1.8 trillion.

The dynamics behind these stimulus negotiations are unusual in at least one key respect: Trump, a Republican, is veering from his party’s traditional support for fiscal austerity and moving closer toward the Democratic proposals for more robust relief measures. The Democratic proposal would include $600 in weekly enhanced unemployment benefits, checks of $1,200 to qualifying adults (or $2,400 for couples) and $500 for their dependents, child care and education assistance, housing assistance, an extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, an increase in SNAP benefits and increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Republicans, by contrast, want to strip relief to all but the barest bones, prompting Democrats to block a $300 billion plan that the GOP proposed last month. While McConnell has subsequently slightly increased the measure to $500 billion, Trump has made it clear that he wants more from Senate Republicans, tweeting earlier this week that they need to “go big or go home!” His underlying political rationale for wanting Republicans to break from their conservative orthodoxy and back more generous legislation was perhaps best summed up in a letter Pelosi sent to her Democratic colleagues on Tuesday.

“A fly on the wall or wherever else it might land in the Oval Office tells me that the President only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up,” Pelosi claimed.

This is not to say that McConnell and the Republicans are ideologically motivated. As Bloomberg reported earlier this week, many Senate Republicans believe Trump is going to lose to his Democratic opponent, …read more


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October 15, 2020 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick

Trump’s plan to send out $200 election bribes to seniors is already falling apart

Amy Coney Barrett gets skewered for dodging questions with very simple answers

Trump slammed for celebrating extrajudicial killing: ‘This is so beyond the pale’

Latest election stunt proves Uber and Lyft are their own worst enemies

US District Court judge burns ‘well-trained bureaucrat’ Bill Barr for his ‘slavish obedience’ to Trump

Lindsey Graham admits to Amy Klobuchar: ‘Y’all have a good chance of winning the White House’

8 million forced into poverty since McConnell let relief expire: studies

The GOP will try to destroy Biden’s presidency — and they are laying the groundwork right now

Steve Bannon’s plan for an early Trump victory has a huge hole in it

How the world’s greatest health organization was brought to its knees by a virus and a president

…read more


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Trump's plan to send out $200 election bribes to seniors is already falling apart

October 15, 2020 in Blogs

By Daily Kos

Remember Donald Trump’s big “healthcare plan” from three weeks ago? The one that did nothing except promise a bribe to seniors in the form of $200 cash cards to be used to by their prescriptions? We subsequently found out that he had sprung that brilliant plan on his administration officials, who were tasked with figuring out and implementing what is now estimated to be an $8 billion plan by November 3.

That won’t happen, not for the majority of the 33 million cards that will need to be sent, the Wall Street Journal reports. In addition to the $8 billion that they’re taking out of Medicare to pay the $200 per beneficiary, this is going to cost taxpayers $20 million just in administrative costs to print and send 33 million letters telling seniors to look for the cards eventually. They can’t get the cards out in time to bribe seniors for the votes, so they’ll try it with these letters.

It seems they haven’t entirely determined exactly who is going to be getting these cards. The WSJ source says that it would be lower-income Medicare beneficiaries who don’t already get financial assistance for prescriptions. The money will probably come out of “two Medicare trust funds, according to the administration official. It would run out of a CMS office that tests new models for providing or paying for health care.” That program was created to run demonstration projects to find more efficient and cost-effective ways of delivering care without effecting quality. Sending $200 to a huge bunch of people without a real plan beyond “give them Trump money” isn’t really what the program was designed for. At all. But the administration official is doing his or her best to sell it, telling the WSJ that it “could be designed to test if people are more adherent to medications if they are given a discount.”

Of course they’re not going into this to try to figure out what’s the best way to help people adhere to a medication schedule. They’re not going to identify a control group to test against, or conduct interviews with recipients. They’re going to spend $8.2 billion of Medicare funding that could have gone to a real program to find ways to improve Medicare and senior health. Instead it’s on this folly of Trump’s, …read more


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How the world’s greatest health organization was brought to its knees by a virus and a president

October 15, 2020 in Blogs

By ProPublica

by James Bandler, Patricia Callahan, Sebastian Rotella and Kirsten Berg

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

At 7:47 a.m. on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Jay Butler pounded out a grim email to colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Butler, then the head of the agency’s coronavirus response, and his team had been trying to craft guidance to help Americans return safely to worship amid worries that two of its greatest comforts — the chanting of prayers and singing of hymns — could launch a deadly virus into the air with each breath.

The week before, the CDC had published its investigation of an outbreak at an Arkansas church that had resulted in four deaths. The agency’s scientific journal recently had detailed a superspreader event in which 52 of the 61 singers at a 2½-hour choir practice developed COVID-19. Two died.

Butler, an infectious disease specialist with more than three decades of experience, seemed the ideal person to lead the effort. Trained as one of the CDC’s elite disease detectives, he’d helped the FBI investigate the anthrax attacks, and he’d led the distribution of vaccines during the H1N1 flu pandemic when demand far outstripped supply.

But days earlier, Butler and his team had suddenly found themselves on President Donald Trump’s front burner when the president began publicly agitating for churches to reopen. That Thursday, Trump had announced that the CDC would release safety guidelines for them “very soon.” He accused Democratic governors of disrespecting churches, and deemed houses of worship “essential services.”

Butler’s team rushed to finalize the guidance for churches, synagogues and mosques that Trump’s aides had shelved in April after battling the CDC over the language. In reviewing a raft of last-minute edits from the White House, Butler’s team rejected those that conflicted with CDC research, including a worrisome suggestion to delete a line that urged congregations to “consider suspending or at least decreasing” the use of choirs.

On Friday, Trump’s aides called the CDC repeatedly about the guidance, according to emails. “Why is it not up?” they demanded until it was posted on the CDC website that afternoon.

The next day, a furious call came from the office of the vice …read more


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6 Things You May Not Know About Pumpkins

October 15, 2020 in History

By Editors

Which famous French explorer is credited with naming them?

In the United States, pumpkins go hand in hand with the fall holidays of …read more