- The Trump Administration clarified details surrounding an $850 billion stimulus package that it wants Congress to pass.
- Namely, it is asking the Senate to propose legislation that would “[send] checks to Americans immediately.”
- Several other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have suggested implementing emergency universal basic income measures.
- The news comes as the House sends another bill to the Senate, this bill focusing on paid sick leave.
$850 Billion Trump Administration Bill
In a move shifting away from a push for payroll tax cuts, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday morning that he is asking Congress to immediately send checks to Americans.
The request is part of an $850 billion stimulus package the Administration is proposing.
“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a White House briefing. “And what we’ve heard from hardworking Americans, many companies have now shut down, whether it’s bars or restaurants. Americans need cash now and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean, now, in the next two weeks.”
In the briefing, Trump said he is choosing check over payroll tax cuts because those cuts would take several weeks to implement.
According to two White House officials, Trump’s plan would contain around $50 billion directed at the airline industry and more assistance for small businesses and their employees.
Mnuchin was expected to meet with Senate Republicans around lunch on Tuesday to present the specific details of the bill.
Is the United States in a Recession?
The Trump Administration hopes the bill will curtail massive free falls in the stock market. On Monday, the Dow Jones plunged 3,000 points before slightly recovering, and Tuesday morning it fell below 20,000 points.
Last week, Trump said the U.S. isn’t in a financial crisis. On Monday, after a reporter asked him if the U.S. is headed for a recession, he said, “We may be.”
Also, Tuesday morning, a chief economist for Morgan Stanley said, “Global recession in 2020 is now our base case. With Covid-19 spreading in Europe and the US after hitting Asia, the disruptions and dislocations in the economy and markets will trigger a [year over year] contraction in global growth in [the first half of 2020].”
In fact, the UCLA Anderson Forecast is already saying that the U.S. is now in a recession that will likely last until the end of September.
Emergency Universal Basic Income
The prospect of sending cash to Americans has been floated among several lawmakers in recent days, including Republicans Senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton. Both have voiced their support for such a move, calling on Congress to send checks to low-income and middle-class Americans.
Romney’s plan would be a one-time injection of $1,000 to Americans, while Cotton said he wants a monthly plan. According to Cotton, that would look something like giving $4,000 a month to a family of four, $1,000 if you’re a single adult, either through unemployment insurance or through a tax rebate.
Cotton said he’s proposing this because a bill in the House that’s now sitting in the Senate does not go far enough to provide economic relief.
“There are too many gaps in coverage for the smallest businesses and for medium-sized businesses, and I and a lot of other senators who I’ve spoken to over the weekend are worried that we’re not doing enough to get cash into the hands of affected workers and families quickly,” Cotton said.
The ideas the Trump Administration, Romney, and Cotton are proposing would be different forms of an emergency universal basic income.
Andrew Yang, a previous Democratic presidential candidate who was known for his support of universal basic income, said of the idea, “I’m pumped about it actually.”
On Friday, another Democrat, Representative Tusli Gabbard introduced a similar UBI measure in the House.
“An emergency Universal Basic Payment of $1,000 per month available to all Americans until the Department of Health and Human Services declares that the COVID–19 outbreak no longer presents a public health emergency,” she said in her proposal.
Some Democrats Have Different Ideas for a Relief Bill
So far, not everyone is on board. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to outline a Democratic proposal today as well.
Notably, that bill would cost $750 billion.
It’s expected to expand unemployment insurance, provide money for schools, public transportation, expand Medicaid funding, expand more investments in health care, provide loan assistance, and halt evictions and foreclosures. Like Mnuchin, Schumer was also expected to present specific details about his plan Tuesday.
Democrats like Schumer are pushing for provisions like this because they say that tax cuts aren’t going to help people who’ve already lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.
Senate to Take Up House Bill
The Senate is expected to make a vote as soon as Tuesday regarding a bill that passed through the House on Monday. It will provide paid sick leave, free testing, boosted unemployment insurance, and food programs for children, the elderly, and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.
Asked by CNN what the Senate will do when it hold the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Pass it.”
“I think [Mnuchin’s] preference is we pass the House bill and move quickly to pass the third Coronavirus bill that deals with some of these issues about creating a mechanism to return money, to get liquidity into the hands of small businesses. I think they’d like to go big,” Senator Marco Rubio said Tuesday.
The House bill faced a potential snag Monday when Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert threatened to stall that process, but he later backed off.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The New York Times) (ABC News)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.