National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 13 (April 12–18)
Quick news about the news: I can’t make the current cycle better, but I can reach out about how I can help–which is why I’m beginning to seek weekly feedback, launching topic-based polls on Sundays and collecting answers until Saturday. This week’s poll is an access poll that can be answered at the link above or via the NNR answer box (if you are not a Patreon user or prefer to stay anonymous). I’m seeking both current-process and aspirational feedback, so please feel free to share more about how you would like the news to be shared!
Another week, another COVID mess. This week is actually a bit better than last week’s on a number of fronts, but we’re still not experiencing what you’d call a great time–comfort foods are recommended. I’m here if anyone needs anything.
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 a consortium!–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:
It’s another week of Disregard of Governing Norms all the way down, but I keep waiting for the next big theme to arise. In the meantime, here’s what happened:
- Postal Service Purgatory. As mentioned last week, the U.S. Postal Service is still struggling in the face of COVID-19 crisis, particularly when it is combined with Trump’s bizarre vendetta against them. But reporting this week draws the issue into focus by noting the ways in which debt has been a problem for USPS since 2006, leaving the agency insolvent as a final step of decline. Without further supports from Congress, we may be looking at a total collapse of the service, as unfathomable as that seems–it’s stunning that this administration refuses to provide supports.
- Trump’s Messed Up COVID-19 Response. This week we saw yet another installment of a by-now fixture of the NNR; Trump just can’t seem to stop himself from misbehaving even during a crisis. After more weeks of threatening to withhold funding from the WHO because he doesn’t like how they are reporting virus spread in the U.S., Trump went ahead and officially announced he was halting funding. This is particularly concerning because he remains focused on opening up the country, convening calls with hundreds of business leaders and setting up a pandemic council. Though at one point he was threatening to adjourn Congress, by the time that I type this he has settled into a three-point plan that would reopen the retail and entertainment industries first. He’s also acknowledging that states retain the right to set their own schedules when it comes to reopening, though his hand might have been forced on that one–more on that below.
- State Pacts Unpacked. After weeks of Trump signaling to states that they were on their own, states apparently got the message, because they are starting to organize with each other instead of the federal government. The first to appear was a three-state coalition on the west coast, with California, Washington, and Oregon banding together to coordinate their reopening efforts and resources. Then an eight-state bloc appeared on the East Coast, extending from Massachusetts down to Maryland. Then the three north-most states on the East Coast created their own separate group. Now seven Midwestern states have organized as well, and we’re officially seeing this effort in more-or-less all regions.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Weekly Election Update. We did see a bit of election news this week, with Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren both endorsing Joe Biden’s candidacy. Wyoming also wrapped up a completely mail-in primary election, completing a process that is usually an April caucus. Joe Biden took the majority of votes, but Bernie Sanders did gain four delegates.
- State of the COVID-19. COVID news continues to be, well, bad. At the time that I type this, over 42,000 people in this country have lost their lives to the virus. The WHO has released guidance for ending lockdowns, and many places in the country do not meet a single one of the six recommended conditions. Providers are beginning to see evidence that the virus can target vital organs other than lungs, throwing even more chaos into treatment research that already lacks clear directions or oversight. Many, many outlets are reporting that we still lack the access to testing needed in order to safely reopen the country, despite what the White House says, and a few are also reporting that contamination at the CDC caused delays. And in more positive news, due to unique vulnerabilities that create additional crisis, some states are beginning to create policies to support immigrant populations.
- Market Mess Continues.* Another five million people have filed for unemployment in the past week, bringing our new total to 22 million people, and experts are starting to say we’re experiencing a depression. Nonetheless, stimulus payments have hit a number of snags, between delays to get Trump’s name printed on the paper checks, a glitch in online tax filing systems, and bank seizures of stimulus payments to apply to account fees. (There is, however, a tracking site you can use to find out what is happening with yours.) Meanwhile, the small business loan program created three weeks ago has already run out of funds, and the administration is already under fire for giving limited funds to big chains instead of, y’know, small businesses. There is an effort to get more funding put in place in the fourth federal bill, which is reportedly nearing a deal, but we’ll have to see if that can be implemented.
- “If You’re Sick, Still Come.” Apparent frustration with stay-at-home orders has driven some of the country into what I can only describe as rampant nihilism, which naturally 45 felt inclined to encourage. Some states are beginning to reopen some public spaces more-or-less immediately, despite all of the issues listed above. And in states where leaders are keeping things locked down, protests are popping up with alarming alacrity. In Michigan, people gathered at the state house to criticize their governor, yelling “Lock her up!” in apparent response to a stay-at-home order. In Denver, protesters squared off against medical providers, yelling “Go to China if you want communism!” (Why medical scrubs suggest communism is, of course, left as an exercise for the reader). In Austin, people simply chanted “USA!” standing neck-and-neck outside the statehouse. Adding fuel to the fire, Trump encouraged protesters to “LIBERATE” several additional states “and save your great 2nd Amendment,” which he said was “under siege!” (Why a virus involves the second amendment is, again, left as an exercise to the reader.) Some advertisements for rallies even said things like “If you’re sick still come, it’s your right,” prompting a twitter user to wonder if the rally was being organized by the virus.
- Recent Court Resilience.We saw several promising court cases this week. An Obama-era standard for school lunch programs was reinstated by a federal district court judge in Maryland, who found that this administration’s attempt to roll back regulations violated the Administrative Procedure Act. And in SCOTUS news, the court held that non-unanimous jury verdicts are unconstitutional. 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 this blues beagle howling their heart out and these dolphins meeting a slothand 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 extra sleep, because this week I need it!