National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 11 (March 29 — April 4)
This week, we graduated from ever-present coronavirus news to coronavirus news and administration corruption news. Essentially, we’re moving away from the incompetence part of the program, and Act II will be quid-pro-quo and personal enrichment issues. (I don’t know about you, but I’m not enjoying this show at all. Who do I speak with for a refund?)
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not an aircraft carrier!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corners:
This week we have a throwback episode of Whistleblowing Ukraine Biden Bingo, y’know, just in case you didn’t have enough to worry about. Here are the details:
- Retaliatory Firings (Again). This week Trump fired Inspector General Michael Atkinson, the man who did his job and passed along a credible whistleblowing complaint literally six months ago. Though the official notice gave no reason for the firing, counter to Congressional intent, it seems pretty clear that this was retaliatory and intended to be a distraction from COVID-19 news. (Ironically, Mitch McConnell went ahead and said the quiet part out loud this week, complaining that impeachment news diverted attention from coronavirus–but he was trying to excuse Trump’s inaction in January and February, claiming that impeachment kept him from doing his job.)
We’re also starting to see Disregard of Governing Norms manifest as obvious quid-pro-quo and other forms of corruption rather than simple incompetence and denial. Here’s what I have for you:
- Trump’s Messed Up COVID-19 Response. Governors are reporting that Trump is showing favoritism with medical equipment, pitting states against each other instead of encouraging fair pricing and undergranting supplies to blue states while overgranting to red states. (Trump, of course, did nothing to disabuse anybody of this notion when he announced that states needed to be ‘treat [him] well’ to get supplies the week before.) Similarly, the administration has been accused by several countries of seizing masks and other equipment mid-transit that were supposed to go to Germany, Canada, and other countries–I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I definitely did not have ‘America accused of piracy by its own allies’ on my COVID Bingo card. Trump also refused to reopen the ACA marketplace for newly-unemployed Americans and has doubled down on his false claim that hydroxychloroquine can treat COVID-19. And on the topic of oversight, he’s already threatening to ignore the new inspector general filling the role created by the CARES Act. Because why would giant corporations need oversight, amirite?
- Other COVID Misconduct. Of course, Trump didn’t have a corner on bad government behavior this week. Jared Kushner was in the news for claiming the Health and Human Services stockpile of emergency medical equipment was ‘our stockpile’ and not supposed to go to the states–despite the HHS website clearly saying otherwise. When this was pointed out to him, Kushner’s response was to change the language on the HHS website, removing the language about state access. And the Navy was in the news after relieving a commander because he reported COVID spread on his aircraft carrier.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Weekly Election Oddities. The Wisconsin primary has turned into quite an ongoing saga, and they haven’t even voted yet. Though the state legislature wanted to hold in-person elections, the governor ordered a postponement for safety reasons in light of the current crisis. Then the state’s Supreme Court blocked the governor today in the eleventh hour, which means in-person voting is back on and but everybody’s scrambling to figure out if their polling location will even be open. Wisconsin Republicans may or may not have been taking cues from Trump, who said this week that Republicans would ‘never’ be elected again if vote-by-mail were permitted–an incredible claim even before you consider the obvious risk it promotes during a pandemic.
- State of the COVID-19. The virus is starting to hit us really hard, and there’s a lot of mess in its wake. At the time that I type this, we still lead the world in cases, and over 10,000 people in this country have lost their lives to the pandemic. Data is starting to suggest that the virus is more fatal to men than women, though that’s far from conclusive, and we’re starting to see infection among essential workers who do not treat the virus. New York is still a major hotspot, and though the U.S.N.S. Comfort docked in New York Harbor, it is not yet treating many patients. The United States is still missing a lot of test data, making it hard to get accurate numbers, and the CDC is now recommending that everyone wear cloth face masks in public. Nonetheless, some states are allowing religious exemptions for stay-at-home orders, which Trump seems to be supporting.
- Fourth Coronavirus Response Bill? With everything going on, Congress is beginning to talk about a fourth Coronavirus relief bill, though there are no specifics yet. Mitch McConnell is expressing resistance, but Nancy Pelosi seems equally determined, and she also is acting to create more oversight for the third bill. It’s sort of anybody’s guess what happens next on this front, so we’ll need to see where we are in a week.
- Market Volatility Continues.* Market volatility continues to be an unprecedented problem, with 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment last week–more than twice the previous week, and bringing the total for the month over 10 million. For perspective, we’ve already outstripped total job loss during the Great Recession, and we might see major long-term changes as a result. Meanwhile, after outlets began reporting that Americans on Social Security would need to file taxes to get their stimulus payments under the CARES Act, the IRS corrected course and permitted recipients to get their stimulus without filing after all. The current implementation plan will issue disbursements from April through September, with the lowest-earning Americans receiving their checks first.
- Recent Ocean Resilience.We got some unexpected good news this week in the form of marine biology–scientists are now saying that we have the knowledge to restore ocean life by 2050. Needless to say, this optimism still hinges on finding a solution to climate change, because conditions would continue to threaten life without a solution for the cascade of changes it creates. But the fact that it’s even possible is new, and definitely welcome information!
- Workers Strike Updates.Several of the strikes mentioned last week have already seen successes! Instacart will now provide their workers with health and safety kits containing cloth face masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometers, and Amazon will begin conducting temperature checks and providing masks. Target and Walmart have announced similar policies as well. Progress!
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve penguin weigh-ins with sound on and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me pictures of your pets!