A Worsening Economic Outlook

A Worsening Economic Outlook

By Yuval Rosenberg
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
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President Biden at the Portsmouth Port Authority in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Reuters)

Biden Promotes Infrastructure Law, With an Eye Toward Election Day

President Joe Biden is traveling coast to coast this week to tout the bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law last November. Biden hit Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Tuesday, where the state’s only deep water harbor was awarded $1.7 million by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for maintenance dredging. The Army Corps also spent $18.2 million to widen the turning basin in the river, making it easier for larger ships to navigate the harbor.

“Instead of turning away business, we’re sending a message: This port is open for business and will be for a long time,” Biden said. “And we’re sending the same message through our investments in roads and bridges here in New Hampshire.”

Biden’s pitch is meant to highlight steps the administration is taking to address the supply chain bottlenecks that have helped drive inflation to a four-decade high. The president is slated to visit Portland, Oregon, on Thursday and Seattle, Washington, on Friday for other infrastructure and fundraising events.

“The last fella who had this job kept talking about infrastructure week, for four years. We have infrastructure decade. This is going on,” Biden said Tuesday, touting the $1.2 billion total price tag of the infrastructure bill he signed. “Thanks to the infrastructure law we’re making the most significant investment in modernizing our roads and bridges since the interstate highway system was built with Eisenhower.”

Biden says Americans should decide for themselves on masks: When asked by reporters Tuesday if Americans should be wearing masks, he said it’s “up to them.” A federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump on Monday struck down a nationwide mask mandate for airplanes and other public transportation. Biden told reporters he hadn’t yet spoken to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the court ruling. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the Department of Justice would make an assessment as to whether it would appeal the decision. “The CDC continues to advise and recommend masks on airplanes,” she said. “We're abiding by the CDC recommendations, the president is. And we would advise all Americans to do that.”

Psaki added that the administration’s “biggest concern” on Covid-19 “continues to be the fact that we don't have funding from Congress to ensure that we can return to a point where we have programs for the uninsured, we’re able to purchase treatments for the immunocompromised, ensuring that we continue to be the arsenal of vaccines to the world.”

A bipartisan agreement in the Senate to provide $10 billion in additional Covid funding remains hung up due to a dispute over the Biden administration’s decision to end the pandemic-related use of Title 42 authority to deny asylum claims at the southern border.

The bottom line: Biden’s local infrastructure push is a key part of Democrats’ election messaging as the party tries to convince voters that it has racked up meaningful accomplishments. “Voters, as sympathetic as they are to Ukraine, are getting a little fatigued,” Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster, told Politico. “And they’re wondering: We’re spending all this money abroad, but what are we spending here at home?”

Number of the Day: 3.6%

The global economic outlook has “worsened significantly” since the start of the year, largely because of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries, the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday.

The IMF projected that global economic growth would slow from an estimated 6.1% last year to 3.6% this year, down 0.8 percentage points compared with the January forecast for 2022. The IMF also downgraded its outlook for the United States economy, cutting projected growth from 4% to 3.7% for this year and from 2.6% to 2.3% for 2023. It said that factors besides the war contributed to its lowered projections, including for the United States: “The forecast for the United States was already downgraded in January, largely reflecting non-passage of the Build Back Better fiscal policy package and continued supply chain disruptions. The additional 0.3 percentage point forecast markdown for 2022 in the current round reflects faster withdrawal of monetary support than in the previous projection—as policy tightens to rein in inflation—and the impact of lower growth in trading partners because of disruptions resulting from the war.”

Elizabeth Warren Outlines Her Plan for Democrats to Avoid Election Disaster

Democrats face a potentially brutal midterm election, with some forecasts predicting that they’ll lose the House and Senate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) says she has a plan to avoid that disaster for her party. In an op-ed at The New York Times on Monday, Warren warned that time is running out for Democrats to fulfill more of their promises.

“To put it bluntly: if we fail to use the months remaining before the elections to deliver on more of our agenda, Democrats are headed toward big losses in the midterms,” Warren wrote, adding, “We need to finalize a budget reconciliation deal, making giant corporations pay their share to fund vital investments in combating climate change and lowering costs for families, which can advance with only 50 Senate votes.”

Among her other recommendations:

• Crack down on corruption by prohibiting members of Congress and their spouses from owning or trading individual stocks.

• Address inflation. “Beefing up regulators’ authority to end price-gouging, breaking up monopolies, and passing a windfall profits tax is a good start,” Warren wrote.

• Close tax loopholes for the wealthy and enact a global minimum corporate tax, while directing some of those revenues clean energy, affordable child care, and universal pre-K.

• President Biden should take executive action to cancel some student debt, lower prescription drug prices and ensure that “more workers are eligible for overtime pay.”

Many Cancer Patients on Medicare Skip Filling High-Priced Prescriptions: Study

High drug prices often lead Americans on Medicare to hold off on filling their prescriptions, even for threatening diseases such as cancer, a study in the journal Health Affairs suggests.

The analysis found that a large percentage of beneficiaries in Medicare’s prescription drug program do not fill their prescriptions for high-priced drugs, but low-income beneficiaries who receive government subsidies were nearly twice as likely as those who don’t get financial help to get their prescribed drugs within 90 days.

Looking at Medicare beneficiaries who do not receive subsidies, the study found that about 30% who had a new prescription for a cancer drug did not fill that prescription within 90 days. The cancer drugs could cost $3,000 for a first fill and then $600 to $1,000 for every refill, far higher than the out-of-pocket cost for patients with subsidies.

“The financial situation for someone who is being prescribed a new cancer treatment is quite shocking and absolutely unattainable for many people,” Stacie Dusetzina, a health policy researcher from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and lead author of the study, said in a Health Affairs podcast.

The study also found that 22% of prescriptions for hepatitis C treatments went unfilled, as did more than 50% of prescriptions to treat hypercholesterolemia and immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.

The study looked at 17,076 new prescriptions issued between 2012 and 2018 for Part D beneficiaries across 11 different health systems.

Nearly three in four Medicare beneficiaries do not qualify for subsidies because their incomes are too high, STAT’s Ed Silverman reports.


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