The No. 1 Issue in Election Ads Isn’t Inflation or Abortion

The No. 1 Issue in Election Ads Isn’t Inflation or Abortion

Biden gets his booster.
SIPA USA
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Happy Tuesday! On this date in 1760, Britain’s King George III ascended to the throne. He would become the longest-reigning king in British history, though he is best remembered here for being on the losing side of America’s Revolutionary War.

Also on this date, Mookie Wilson’s groundball rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs in game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Wilson’s Mets would go on to win the series and extend the Boston Red Sox’s remarkable run of futility.

Biden Calls for More Covid Funding, Urges Americans to Get Boosted

President Joe Biden on Tuesday got another Covid booster shot and urged all Americans to do the same. He also called on Congress once again to provide billions of dollars in additional funding to combat the virus.

“It’s incredibly effective,” Biden said of the booster shot, which has been updated to better target recent Omicron variants as well as the original coronavirus strain. “But the truth is, not enough people are getting it. We’ve got to change that so we can all have a safe and healthy holiday season.”

Biden noted that more than 20 million Americans have gotten their updated vaccine. That means that many more millions — more than 90% of the eligible population — have not gotten boosted at a time when concern is rising about a potential “tripledemic,” a combination of surging Covid cases coinciding with flu season and infections from another bug, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which poses heightened risks for the elderly.

“Let me as plain as I can,” Biden said. “We still have hundreds of people dying each day from Covid in this country — hundreds. That number is likely to rise this winter. But this year is different from the past. This year, nearly every death is preventable. Let me say it again: Nearly every death is preventable. So, get your updated Covid shot.”

Biden said that 95% of Americans can find a free, updated vaccine within five miles of their home and urged the public to visit Vaccines.gov to find a vaccination location.

The president then called on lawmakers to deliver more money to fight the virus. “To our friends in Congress, it’s time to step up with much-needed Covid funding. Help us stay ahead of the virus and keep our communities going strong with free vaccines, free tests, and widely available treatments,” he said.

Republicans not interested: New funding for Covid has stalled out in Congress, after earlier plans fizzled in the face of partisan objections and a bipartisan proposal for $10 billion more to fight the pandemic fell apart. Republicans have since balked at providing any more Covid funding — and Biden gave them some ammunition for the position last month when he said that the pandemic is over. On Tuesday, he said more money is necessary to make sure that the virus doesn’t reemerge as a national emergency.

“Some of our friends in Congress say we don’t need COVID funding, or they say there’s really no reason that the government should be paying for that,” Biden said. “I strongly disagree. Strongly disagree. This is a global health emergency. If we really want to put COVID behind us, we have to keep up the fight together.”

New variant emerging: The Washington Post Editorial Board warns that another wave of Covid is on the horizon as a new “immunity-evading subvariant” called BQ.1 and an offshoot called BQ.1.1 account for a rising number of infections (see the bottom right corner of the chart below). “One reason to worry is that BQ.1.1 evades immune systems on a greater scale than other variants and subvariants,” the editors write. “The most important step is for all eligible individuals to get vaccinated and boosted. It will be necessary to return to wearing masks in some places, particularly crowded areas with close contact. Everyone should test themselves often and, if positive, stay home — for their sake and for that of others.”

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The Top Issue in Election Ads Isn’t Inflation, Abortion or Joe Biden

Take a guess: What issue has featured most prominently in political campaign ads in congressional races since Labor Day? No, it’s not abortion or inflation or President Joe Biden. The answer, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from AdImpact, which tracks television and digital ad spending, is taxation.

Republicans have spent $89 million airing 164,000 ads on the tax issue, making it the top subject for the GOP. Candidates across the country have frequently pushed alarmist and misleading claims that an $80 billion funding boost for the Internal Revenue Service provided by Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act will result in an army of 87,000 auditors targeting middle-class Americans.

Democrats, meanwhile, have spent $26 million for some 71,000 ads on taxation, bringing the total across both parties to $115 million — and a whopping 235,000 ads. The totals for both spending and the number of ads are the highest among all election issues.

Republicans have also spent $63 million on ads about Biden, more than $50 million on ads focused on inflation and nearly as much on ads about crime, according to the data.

On the other side, the abortion rights issue has dominated Democratic ads. Democrats have spent $103 million on nearly 200,000 ad airings on the subject, which has been at the core of the party’s pitch to voters since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade on June. (Republicans, by contrast, have spent just $4 million on ads about abortion.) Health care, Medicare and Social Security have also drawn significant Democratic ad dollars, but no issue comes close to abortion in terms of overall Democratic spending.

Democrats have focused far less than Republicans on inflation and have spent just $10 million on ads about the issue.

Read more about election ad spending at The Washington Post.

Number of the Day: $250 Billion

About 3 million people are still out of the U.S. workforce due to their concerns about Covid, and their absence reduced economic output by about $250 billion in the first six months of 2022, according to a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The reduction in economic activity is expected to endure as the virus continues to cause illness and death. “People with a cautious bent or with underlying health conditions that place them at higher risk of death or serious illness from COVID-19 can find sound, understandable reasons to continue and even intensify their social distancing practices,” the paper’s authors write. “Long Social Distancing and its effects are likely to persist for many months or years.” (h/t Bloomberg)

Quote of the Day

“Congress has secured over $60 billion in security, economic, humanitarian and budget assistance for Ukraine, including 12 and a third billion just weeks ago. And more will be on the way when we pass our omnibus funding bill this fall.”

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), appearing Tuesday in Croatia, where she is representing the U.S. at an international summit to discuss the status of Crimea.

Pelosi’s remarks come amid grumblings on both the left and the right about the sheer quantity of military and economic aid that has been provided to Ukraine. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who may become the next speaker if Republicans win control of the House in the midterms, recently said that his members may object to providing more funding and will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine. As Pelosi’s comments indicate, Democrats may seek to avoid that conflict by passing more aid in December as part of the 2023 government funding package.

Also on Tuesday, a group of 30 progressive Democrats released a letter to the White House that called on the Biden administration to rethink its Ukraine strategy and to open direct negotiations with Russia to end the war. Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) quickly withdrew the letter amid strong pushback from fellow Democrats, saying it had not been properly vetted while affirming her support for the war-torn country. Nevertheless, the letter raised questions about whether more liberal Democrats are willing to continue providing substantial aid to Ukraine as the war drags on.

Federal Aid for Poor Families Is Being Used to Fund Anti-Abortion Movement: Report

At least 18 states are funding crisis centers that aim to dissuade pregnant women from getting abortions, and some of them are doing so using federal grant money intended to help poor families, according to a report by CNN Tuesday.

Some health care advocates say that the public funds are being misused, since the crisis centers clearly have a political mission but do not perform basic services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, even as they provide highly controversial and sometimes deceptive advice.

“Pregnancy center leaders and their state government allies say the organizations deserve taxpayer funds because they provide pregnant women with resources like free diapers and ultrasounds,” CNN’s Casey Tolan, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Isabelle Chapman write. “But some of the centers also lie to women about the safety and potential risks of abortion, according to multiple studies, abortion rights activists, and women who have been to the centers.”

CNN found that eight states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Missouri – are using money provided through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to at least partially fund pregnancy crisis centers. TANF provides federal funding for welfare assistance to the states through block grants, which give states considerable leeway in how to use the money.

According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states have long used TANF funds for a variety of needs far removed from assistance to the poor, and the program “provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of block-granting core safety-net programs and providing extensive flexibility to states on using the funds.”

The questionable use of TANF funds for anti-abortion advocacy is part of a larger trend, experts say, which has resulted in less assistance flowing to the poor. “While about 68% of families with children in poverty received cash assistance through TANF in 1996, when the program was created, that percentage declined to just 21% by 2020,” CNN says. “The percentage was even lower in some of the GOP-dominated states that use TANF funding to support crisis pregnancy centers, such as Texas and Louisiana.”


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