A Disturbing New Pandemic Record

A Disturbing New Pandemic Record

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Plus, when to expect the next coronavirus relief bill
Friday, October 30, 2020

When to Expect the Next Coronavirus Relief Bill

When can Americans expect to see the next coronavirus relief bill, which is expected to include some $2 trillion in aid for the unemployed, state and local governments, small businesses and efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic? Key players in Washington sent mixed signals Friday, suggesting it could be weeks before any progress is made.

President Trump repeated his claim that he expected a “tremendous” coronavirus relief package to come “immediately after the election,” but the lawmakers who will make or break the deal appear to have different plans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Friday that he expects to address another round of Covid-related spending “right at the beginning of the year,” and that the legislation would focus on aid to small businesses and hospitals facing a resurgence of the virus.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she was in more of a hurry, telling MSNBC that she wanted to have a bill passed before the presidential inauguration in January, adding that “we don’t want to have to wait that long, because people have needs.”

Is a deal even possible? A senior GOP aide told The Hill conditions on Capitol Hill could well improve after the election, with Republicans less worried about angering their supporters by making a deal with Pelosi that involves spending on Democratic priorities such as aid for state and local governments. At the same time, Democrats will lose their motivation to deny Trump a victory by passing a bill, making it easier for both sides to come to an agreement.

“The motivation level on both sides will depend on how the election comes out, but I think either way we’ll do something. The question is how much,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said.

Others have their doubts. A Democratic aide said that Republicans wouldn’t have much interest in making a deal if Democrats record big gains in the election. “I don’t think there is a package, period, if they lose,” the source told The Hill. Instead, the source expected Republicans to return to the same stance they took with President Obama, refusing to pass a substantial relief package in the name of fiscal austerity.

Quote of the Day

“It’s been surprising to me how long consumers have been able to hold on. We’re tempting fate by waiting until next year to re-up some of the stimulus measures.”

– Megan Greene, an economist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, in a Politico piece looking at how millions of Americans face a debt crunch as they run out of money and “will face hard choices between food purchases and payments on rent, credit cards and student loans.”

Coronavirus Pandemic Sets New Record

The United States keeps setting troubling Covid-19 records. The number of daily cases hit a new high of 88,521 on Thursday, up nearly 83% over the last month, and the weekly case count rose to 536,131, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

On Friday, the nation surpassed 9 million total cases — just two weeks after it reached 8 million.

“It’s not just a few areas driving the surge, as was the case early on,” The New York Times reports. “Half of U.S. counties saw new cases peak during the past month. Almost a third saw a record in the past week.”

Forty-three states have reportedly seen an increase in cases compared to last week, and nine states reported single-day records for new cases on Thursday. Bloomberg News reports that 14 states recorded all-time highs in cases this week.

Death toll projected to surge:
“The recent surge in cases has not yet brought a similar surge in reported deaths, which can lag cases by up to several weeks. But already deaths are increasing in about half of states,” the Times says.

Another 971 people died of the disease on Thursday, even as Donald Trump Jr. told Fox News that the number of Americans dying from Covid-19 amounts to “almost nothing.” And The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine projects that it’s likely that some 2,250 Americans will be dying daily by the middle of January.

The death toll could climb from more than 229,000 as of Friday to about 400,000 by February 1. “If states do not react to rising numbers by re-imposing mandates, cumulative deaths could reach 514,000 by the same date,” IHME said in its latest report. On the other hand, increasing mask use to the level seen in Singapore could prevent 62,000 deaths by February, IMHE said.
So wear a mask.

Government Spending Still Providing Major Boost for Economy: Report

Fiscal policies continued to have a powerful effect on the economy in the third quarter, boosting growth by 5.4 percentage points on an annualized basis, according to the latest Hutchins Center Fiscal Impact Measure, released Friday.

While the effects of government spending and tax policies were more pronounced in the second quarter, increasing growth by 14 points, the results for the third quarter were still exceptional, the second highest reading on the measure since 1973.

“Taxes, subsidies, and transfer programs account for the largest component of the increase in the FIM over the past two quarters,” Brookings’ Kadija Yilla and Louise Sheiner said Friday. “This category captures the boosts to consumption from the CARES Act’s payments to households and expanded unemployment benefits, as well as from the automatic stabilizers—the reduction in taxes and increases in unemployment and SNAP benefits that occur automatically when an economy falls into recession.”

Looking ahead, the analysts say that if lawmakers fail to pass another round of relief and stimulus, the effects of fiscal policy will reverse. “Without any additional stimulus, we project that fiscal policy will become a drag on economic growth in coming quarters,” they wrote.

The 10 Wonks Most Likely to Influence Joe Biden’s Economic Policy

A Biden administration is likely to see a split between “legacy elements of the Democratic Party and a reformist Left,” political-risk advisory firm Baron Public Affairs says in a new report that seeks to analyze which outside experts and organizations are likely to shape the Democratic candidate’s economic policy.

“The 10 influencers were chosen through an analysis of the writings and remarks of 33 advisers, campaign officials, and platform committee members surrounding Biden, including California Senator Kamala Harris, his running mate,” Bloomberg Businessweek’s Peter Coy reports. “That produced a list of the thinkers whom those people most often cited.”

The list includes:

  • Michael Linden, executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, which works with “progressive movement leaders and activists on the front lines of progressive causes.”
  • Jason Furman, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama and is now a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who was an economic adviser to Biden from 2009 to 2011.
  • Heather Boushey, co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Baron notes that The New York Times described her as “at the forefront of a generation of economists rethinking their discipline.”
  • Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute.
  • Gene Sperling, who was director of the National Economic Council under both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
  • Ernie Tedeschi, a former Treasury Department economist who is now managing director and policy economist at research firm Evercore ISI.
  • Justin Wolfers of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Martha Gimbel, senior manager for economic research at Schmidt Futures, an organization founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt dedicated to advancing science.
  • Matt Stoller, director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project.

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