This is the street I grew up on. It used to be lined with trees, but we lost some of them to disease and then the rest to the city, which decided about 20 years ago that it couldn’t afford to maintain them. Nor, thanks to liability reasons of some kind, would it allow homeowners to take over the maintenance. So now the whole neighborhood looks denuded.
The electric pylon in the background has always been there, but it didn’t used to glow. It does that now because Southern California Edison leased the right-of-way under the electric lines to a company that stores RVs there. The storage space is lighted with intensely bright sodium bulbs that cast an orange glow for hundreds of feet. That’s why the pylon now glows orange.
This neighborhood is almost exactly as old as me: we moved in when I was about six months old. My mother is one of the few remaining original buyers still living there.
Now that the Republican version of a coronavirus rescue bill is out, we can compare it with the Democratic bill passed several weeks ago. I may dive into things in more detail later, but for now let’s look at how things break down in two broad categories: aid to individuals and aid to business.
Democrats maintain the $600 unemployment bonus. Republicans slash it to $200.
Stimulus checks: About the same in both bills.
Democrats allocate $430 billion for schools. Republicans are offering only $100 billion.
Democrats want $1 trillion in aid to cities and states. Republicans want nothing.
Republicans want to immunize businesses from COVID-related lawsuits.
Republicans want more money for emergency business loans.
Republicans want a new round of funding for the PPP program.
Republicans want a 100 percent deduction for business meals through the end of 2020.
A 100 percent deduction for business meals! In the middle of a pandemic where we’re trying to persuade people to stay apart! It’s hard to think of anything more slavishly and stupidly business friendly.
The Democratic bill includes plenty of money for businesses, but the Republican bill is targeted almost exclusively at them. When it comes to money that helps individuals, either directly (UI benefits) or indirectly (schools and cities), Republicans just want to slash, slash, slash.
During the Democratic debates, Kamala Harris took what I and many others considered a cheap shot against Joe Biden’s opposition to forced busing many decades ago. An article in Politico suggests she has no remorse over this, but that doesn’t worry Karen Tumulty:
The article suggests that some Biden allies fear Trump may “weaponize” (in advertisements) the debate-stage clash between Harris and Biden over his record on busing, which was the most notable moment of her failed bid for the nomination. Since endorsing Biden in March, Harris has campaigned energetically on his behalf.
This reported anxiety about Harris, however, suggests a different standard for women as running mates. They are apparently supposed to be window-dressing — demure and apologetic.
It’s hard to take this fear seriously. First of all, it happens every single election cycle, and the public inevitably yawns. Second, do you remember what Donald Trump’s opponents called him in 2016? If that didn’t cause any problems, nothing will.
I don’t think it matters much who Biden chooses, but the fact that Harris is willing to take the occasional cheap shot is a point in her favor, not against her. It shows that she understands politics ain’t beanbag.
Last Friday President Trump unveiled four executive orders that he claimed would revolutionize the prescription drug industry. Let’s take a look at three of them:
The first order clarifies that discounts under a program for low-income patients should be passed directly on to patients. This is a fine idea, but Trump’s version applies to only a tiny segment of the market.
A second order eliminates rebates that drug companies pay to Medicare Part D plans for seniors. In other words, it raises drug prices.
The third order allows importation of drugs from Canada. This has been underway for a while, so there was nothing new in Trump’s announcement. What’s more, Canada is still opposed since it wants to make sure Americans don’t cannibalize their supply of drugs.
Taken together, these three executive orders would have only the most modest effect. But how about the fourth order? This one would direct Medicare to base the price it pays for certain drugs to the price paid by foreign countries. In theory this might be a good idea that forces pharmaceutical companies to treat the United States more fairly. But hold your applause: it would apply only to drugs administered by physicians and Trump gave drug companies 30 days to come up with a better plan. There’s a good chance that even this limited proposal will never see the light of day.
I have not been able to find a rigorous analysis of how much these proposals are likely to affect the overall cost of prescription drugs. At a guess, though, the first two are minuscule and cancel each other out. The Canadian reimportation rule will save consumers some money, but not much overall.
So that leaves the “favored nation” rule, which at least has the potential to drive down the cost of certain expensive drugs. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing what impact it will have until Trump issues an actual order instead of simply using it as a threat to hold over the heads of the pharma industry—which he’s been doing for the past couple of years with no results. Given the opposition of both pharma and most of the Republican Party, this is a pig in a poke until we see a final order.
Less than a week in, the 2020 Major League Baseball season has already reached its first crisis point, with the Miami Marlins stuck in Philadelphia and forced to postpone their home opener in Miami on Monday night after as many as a dozen players and coaches tested positive for the coronavirus, according to reports.
Just stop now. This was inevitable. You simply can’t hold a season under these circumstances.
You can never have too many cat pictures, can you? Here’s the whole stripey family:
And here’s my mother with Tillamook:
It took a week, but Tillamook finally figured out that my mother was really home, and ever since then he has resumed sleeping in her bed. He is there nearly 24/7, and his purr starts if you merely look at him crosseyed. He’s such a faithful cat.
The $600 bonus unemployment payments put in place in March expire today, and let’s get this out of the way up front: the main reason for extending them is because there are millions of Americans who are out of work and they desperately need the money. There’s no reason to add to the anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic itself by making them wonder if they’ll keep getting these payments.
That said, there’s another reason to extend the UI payments. I’m not the first to say this, or probably even the millionth, but if the payments are cut off it will devastate an already ravaged economy. Here is EPI’s estimate from a few weeks ago of what the payments are doing to keep the economy afloat:
We estimate that extending the $600 UI benefits through the middle of 2021 would provide an average quarterly boost to gross domestic product (GDP) of 3.7% and employment of 5.1 million workers.
Now, you can argue with EPI’s precise number. You can propose, say, a $400 UI benefit along with a repeat of the $1,200 stimulus checks. That’s all fine, and it ought to be an easy negotiation. It also ought to be a negotiation that took place a month ago, when it was obvious that we hadn’t beaten COVID-19 and continued support for the economy would be needed.
So why are Republicans hemming and hawing and putting off any action? After all, the president is a Republican. He’s already in trouble, and if the economy is in shambles in November he’ll obviously have no chance of winning no matter how many federal troops he sends into American cities to gin up riots. From a purely selfish perspective, Republicans ought to be in favor of doing anything they can to keep the economy in decent shape through the election.
So what’s going on? I can think of a few possibilities:
They are genuinely worried about creating even deeper deficits. For obvious reasons, I find this hard to believe.
They’ve given up on Trump. This is possible, but they still have their own elections to think about.
They’re holding out for goodies aimed at their base and are using the desperation of ordinary people as leverage to get Democrats to agree. Unfortunately, I have no problem believing this.
Whatever the reason, the whole thing is a disgrace. Ordinary people need this boost. The economy needs this boost. It will almost certainly do no damage in a period of near-zero interest rates. Why are Republicans acting so contemptibly?