Lianeon Weekly Topics | Did the US "Win" the Covid Recovery?

Week of April 26th/May 2nd

The Essential Three

Biden’s First 100 Days Show How Partisan Things Have Become

Tonight, President Biden will give his first address to a joint session of Congress, outlining his administration’s accomplishments during its first 100 days and its priorities moving forward. And while that 100-day timeframe is seemingly arbitrary, it has long been used to measure the early performance of presidents, and could be particularly consequential for Biden given that he entered office amidst a global public health crisis and, as a consequence of it, a period of economic uncertainty.

So how has Biden done in his first 100 days?

There used to be a longer “honeymoon” period where a new President was given the benefit of the doubt, but this no longer seems to apply in today’s tribal and hyperpartisan environment. This newsletter seeks to combat this trend, at ;least in a small part.

How the US won the economic recovery

In March 2020, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the CARES Act, which sent out no-strings-attached checks to the vast majority of Americans for the first time. The bill also dramatically increased the generosity of unemployment insurance, making many workers whole and, for some months, leaving most workers (including Holloway) with more money than they would have earned at their employer. It paused evictions and created a new near-universal child tax credit reaching the poorest families with children.

Then lawmakers did it again in December 2020, passing another bill that offered bonus unemployment benefits and one-time $600-per-person checks.

Under President Biden, the government passed yet another bill, with one-time $1,400-per-person checks, another bonus unemployment measure, and hundreds of billions in relief money for state and local governments.

Great article that provides a much more balanced view of US govt actions over the past year. Despite the memes circulating online that portrayed the US govt as stingy, cold, and uncaring about its people compared to most of the developed world (memes that I did my darndest to dispel), the US provided more aid directly to people than most countries. The US Covid recession was also less steep than most countries.

Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe

Widely circulating coronavirus variants and persistent hesitancy about vaccines will keep the goal out of reach. The virus is here to stay, but vaccinating the most vulnerable may be enough to restore normalcy.

This is worth a read but its conclusion is a bit wrong. It has always been an open secret that achieving “herd immunity” via vaccines alone is extremely unlikely.

Herd immunity isn’t a fixed number, but a target that is constantly moving due to fluctuating immunity among the public, mutations of the virus, and vaying immunity levels from location to location.

Some parts of the country may reach herd immunity long before the nation itself does. Herd immunity should be thought of as a point in which the virus itself is still circulating, but doesn’t pose a significant threat to life.

That said, servoprevalance, or the number of people who have natural immunity due to infection, should make up for those that are vaccine hestitant. In other words, we will reach herd immunity, just not voluntarily.

Healthcare/Society

Almost two-third optimistic with nation's future: poll

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are optimistic about the future with President Joe Biden as he reached his first 100 days in office, according to a new ABC News Poll.

The poll found that 64 percent of citizens are happy with the direction the country is going. That compares to the 36 percent who still are pessimistic about the notion.

This marks the first time since December 2006 where Americans have reached this height of optimism, according to the ABC poll. 

The next vaccination push will lean on churches, employers

The U.S. vaccination effort is preparing to lean on employers, houses of worship, community organizations and even home-based delivery in order to reach the people who haven't yet gotten vaccinated.

Why it matters: Shots will need to become much more easily accessible and trusted organizations will have to help overcome vaccine hesitancy in order to keep America's vaccination progress going as demand begins to wane.

As we wrote a few newletters back, its time to bring the vaccine to people directly and make it easy for them.

Education/Science/Technology

A make-or-break moment for cleaning up space junk

Companies and governments around the world are racing to figure out how to clean up human-made junk that is cluttering space.

Why it matters: Trackers are seeing more and more close calls between satellites, as companies work to deploy constellations of hundreds to thousands of small spacecraft, adding to fears that those small satellites could become junk themselves.

Cleaning up junk requires finding new ways to remove it from orbit — and experts say regulations and policy need to be clarified to prevent more from accumulating.

At the moment, NASA estimates there are hundreds of thousands of untrackable pieces of junk in orbit around the Earth that threaten operational satellites and even people in space

This is a very real problem. As our services become more and more dependent on machines floating in Low Earth Orbit and as those orbits become more crowded, a single bad event could trigger global outages and make spaceflight impossible.

Economy/Business

Biden's Infrastructure Plan Would Redefine 'Broadband' To Justify Spending $100 Billion on Government-run Internet

As part of a $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, President Joe Biden is pushing Congress to spend $100 billion fixing a problem that mostly doesn't exist: widespread lack of access to broadband internet.

But Biden's infrastructure plan suggests a major change to what counts as "broadband" internet. As a result, as many as 64 million American households could suddenly appear to lack adequate online speed—even though nothing about their current services would change.

In my opinion, this doesn’t necessarily justify not spending the money, but the author here makes some great points about the nature of broadband internet and why Biden’s spending might not be necessary and could be perceived as wasteful.

Two Views of American Families Plan

The White House and Republican National Committee are each touting different economic analyses that reach far different conclusions about the budget and economic impact of President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan.

One analysis from Penn Wharton Budget Model – which is being promoted by the RNC – directly contradicts Biden’s claims that the plan “doesn’t add a single penny to our deficit” and that it is “estimated to grow the economy another trillion dollars.”

In its May 5 analysis, PWBM estimates that over 10 years, the plan would spend $1.2 trillion more than it takes in in new revenue, and would increase government debt by almost 5% by 2050. It also predicts the plan would decrease GDP by 0.34% over 10 years, and by nearly 0.4% by 2050.

Another analysis of the American Families Plan from Moody’s Analytics – which the White House has been sending around — provides some cover for the president’s claims, but only in the event that the plan is passed in conjunction with the American Jobs Plan. (The president is calling the two plans together his “Build Back Better” agenda.)

Tough U.S. jobs report shows Biden’s rocky road to full economic recovery

President Joe Biden reacted on Friday to a disappointing April jobs report by saying the U.S. economy has a “long way to go” before recovering from its pandemic slump, and he urged Washington to do more to help the American people.

U.S. job growth unexpectedly slowed last month, likely restrained by shortages of workers and raw materials. Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 266,000 jobs, well below the nearly 1 million jobs economists expected and a sharp contrast to steady increases in growth from January to March.

Seasonable adjustments may be to partly to blame for relatively weak jobs numbers. If we see the same trend in May, however, then there may be cause for concern.

Policy/Politics

Liberal push to expand Supreme Court is all but dead among Hill Dems

Supreme Court expansion was one of the left’s most galvanizing ideas during the 2020 Democratic primary. But the idea is going nowhere with sitting Democratic senators.

“I don’t think the American public is interested in having the Supreme Court expanded,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who represents a particularly valuable swing state, said “the more responsible thing to do is to keep it at nine justices.” And Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) said she opposes “adding seats that politicize the court.”

Republicans and Democrats Move Further Apart in Views of Voting Access

In the months since the 2020 election, partisan conflicts over election rules and procedures – both at the state and federal levels – have become increasingly contentious.

Among U.S. adults overall, sizable majorities favor several policies aimed at making it easier for citizens to register and vote, as well as a requirement that voters be required to show government-issued photo identification before voting.

Biden’s Next Steps on North Korea Contain a Dose of Realism

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has concluded its North Korea policy review and offered the public a glimpse of its rough dimensions. Like its predecessors, the full content of the administration’s policy review will likely remain classified, so for now analysts are reading between the lines.

The administration’s limited on-the-record descriptions of its policy and secondary reporting in the press suggest cause for measured, cautious optimism about the prospects for managing the challenge of a nuclear-armed North Korea. Structural factors and North Korea’s own policy, however, leave cause for pessimism.

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