Patterico's Pontifications


White House Considers Sending $1,000 To Americans To Help Families During Pandemic

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:15 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The White House is discussing whether to provide Americans with a one-time payment of $1,000 to help them with economic hardships resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, and to limit the economic fallout:

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.

Mnuchin said the administration was looking at ways to provide the checks within the next two weeks.

He also said the administration will allow Americans to defer up to $1 million in payments to the Internal Revenue Service for 90 days. Mnuchin said the IRS would not charge interest or penalties for the deferral. He said corporations could defer up to $10 million in IRS payments.

CNN’s John Harwood also asked President Donald Trump and Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin about the logistics of an economic stimulus idea that could give $1,000 checks to Americans, which is gaining some bipartisan support.

Mnuchin expressed some support for the idea and it would be discussed during his Capitol Hill meetings.

“I think it’s clear we don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks. But we like — that’s one of the ideas we like. We’re going to preview that today and then we’ll be talking about details afterwards,” Mnuchin said.

Trump chimed in, saying, “I think we’re going to do something that gets money to them as quickly as possible. That may not be an accurate way of doing it because obviously some people shouldn’t be getting checks for $1000. But we’ll have a pretty good idea by the end of the day what we’re going to be doing.”

Note: No matter how much people claim this is the same thing as Andrew Yang’s universal basic income (UBI) plan, which promised “a set of guaranteed payments of $1,000 per month, or $12,000 per year, to all U.S. citizens over the age of 18…you and everyone you know would get $1,000/month every month from the U.S. government, no questions asked,” it isn’t. The current discussion surrounding Trump’s proposal addresses a one-time, emergency shot in the wallet for Americans. Yang’s payment was every month, in perpetuity, and it was painfully obvious that it was an unsustainable plan. A one-time $1,000 payment is simply nowhere the same as a full-blown UBI.


Sen. Tom Cotton proposed his own relief plan today:

Cotton (R-Ark.) proposed Tuesday providing a $1,000 tax rebate check to every adult making under $100,000 per year and $500 for every claimed dependent on that adult’s tax filings.

Married couples making under $200,000 annually who jointly file their taxes would be eligible for a tax rebate check for $2,000.

Cotton defended sending checks to individuals and couples as indispensable for Americans to be able to afford necessities.

“Giving relief directly to Americans is a better solution than complicated sick-leave policies or payroll tax cuts, and will be more certain to go to the kinds of hourly- or gig-workers who need it most,” he wrote.

“Legislation that provided tax rebates to households most likely to be in need within days would be much more effective and immediate than complicated policies requiring significant time for implementation.”

Mitt Romney was first to suggest a $1,000 check to Americans as we endure the coronavirus pandemic:

“Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” the Utah Republican wrote in a proposal published Monday.

“Congress took similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions. While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options.”

Both Romney and Cotton believe that Congress needs to go beyond what the House coronavirus response package provides.


White House Press Secretary Self-Quarantining

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:27 am

[guest post by Dana]

Responding to inquiries about why President Trump had not self-quarantined nor tested for coronavirus after having had contact with the Brazilian press secretary, who was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued this statement:

“Both the president and vice president had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time,” Grisham said. “To reiterate CDC guidelines, there is currently no indication to test patients without symptoms, and only people with prolonged close exposure to confirmed positive cases should self-quarantine.”

We were informed two days ago that the President was tested, and that the results were negative. In the meantime, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott, who were also in contact with the Brazilian entourage, chose to self-quarantine after learning of the aide testing positive for the virus. Graham was also tested for the virus, as a safeguard, and test results were negative.

This morning we are now learning that Grisham has self-quarantined because of her contact with the Brazilian contingency:

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham is self-quarantining after having contact with individuals from a Brazilian delegation while at Mar-a-Lago who have since tested positive for coronavirus, a White House official confirmed.

“Out of an abundance of caution, she is working from home,” the official told The Post.

Grisham’s move came after interacting with Fabio Wajngarten, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s press secretary who tested positive for COVID-19, during a visit to President Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida complex earlier this month.

More from Grisham:

“Yes I’m working from home and yes I feel good,” Grisham wrote in a text message to CNBC.

“With my close proximity to the President, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she added.

Mar-a-Lago, where the average age of its visitor is a reported 80 years, and in spite of all its spectacular glamor and exclusivity, has become somewhat of a “gilded petri dish” for the coronavirus:

The handshakes, diplomatic huddles, cozy VIP photo-ops and meet-and-greets at Mar-a-Lago became a potential nexus for other cases — the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, tested positive after being in the same area as the Brazilian officials. Since last weekend, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez and several Republican lawmakers close to the White House — Rep. Matt Gaetz and Sens. Rick Scott and Lindsey Graham — all self-quarantined as a precaution.

The dark cloud over Mar-a-Lago, where Trump often spends holidays and hosts foreign leaders, threatens to mar its reputation as a social destination for elites after a mountain of headlines about an invisible disease spreading through the complex.

Mar-a-Lago closed on Monday for a deep-cleaning:

An email sent to Mar-a-Lago members said “a thorough deep cleaning of the main house, guest rooms, and dining area” was being done, but noted that “the beach club will remain open.”

The note also said that sanitation of “all other areas will follow in the days to come.”

Better late than never, eh?


Claims About Trump Administration Having Dissolved Its Pandemic Response Office

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:50 am

[guest post by Dana]

Four days ago, Beth Cameron, who previously served as the senior director for global health security and biodefense on the White House National Security Council, wrote in The WashingtonPost:

When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact. Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic.

One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19.

The U.S. government’s slow and inadequate response to the new coronavirus underscores the need for organized, accountable leadership to prepare for and respond to pandemic threats.

In a health security crisis, speed is essential. When this new coronavirus emerged, there was no clear White House-led structure to oversee our response, and we lost valuable time. Yes, we have capable and committed global and national disease-prevention and management organizations, as well as state and local health departments, all working overtime now. But even in prepared cities like Seattle, health systems are struggling to test patients and keep pace with growing caseloads. The specter of rapid community transmission and exponential growth is real and daunting. The job of a White House pandemics office would have been to get ahead: to accelerate the response, empower experts, anticipate failures, and act quickly and transparently to solve problems.

It’s impossible to assess the full impact of the 2018 decision to disband the White House office responsible for this work. Biological experts do remain in the White House and in our government. But it is clear that eliminating the office has contributed to the federal government’s sluggish domestic response. What’s especially concerning about the absence of this office today is that it was originally set up because a previous epidemic made the need for it quite clear.


It’s unclear whether the decision to disband the directorate, which was made in May 2018, after John Bolton became national security adviser, was a tactical move to downgrade the issue or whether it was part of the White House’s interest in simplifying and shrinking the National Security Council staff. Either way, it left an unclear structure and strategy for coordinating pandemic preparedness and response. Experts outside government and on Capitol Hill called for the office’s reinstatement at the time.

Cameron concludes:

Pandemics, like weapons of mass destruction and climate change, are transnational threats with potentially existential consequences. No single department or agency can be responsible for handling them. Pandemic threats may not arise every year, but the White House should constantly prepare for them. We can’t afford for federal decision-makers to waste time relearning old lessons when they should be innovating and acting.

Covid-19 wasn’t preventable, but it was predictable.

Yesterday, Tim Morrison, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense on the National Security Council, responded to the claim that the Trump administration “dissolved the office” at the White House in charge of pandemic preparedness:

President Trump gets his share of criticism — some warranted, much not. But recently the president’s critics have chosen curious ground to question his response to the coronavirus outbreak since it began spreading from Wuhan, China, in December.

It has been alleged by multiple officials of the Obama administration, including in The Post, that the president and his then-national security adviser, John Bolton, “dissolved the office” at the White House in charge of pandemic preparedness. Because I led the very directorate assigned that mission, the counterproliferation and biodefense office, for a year and then handed it off to another official who still holds the post, I know the charge is specious.

Morrison goes on to discuss that the department was more than just robust:

It is true that the Trump administration has seen fit to shrink the NSC staff. But the bloat that occurred under the previous administration clearly needed a correction. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, congressional oversight committees and members of the Obama administration itself all agreed the NSC was too large and too operationally focused (a departure from its traditional role coordinating executive branch activity). As The Post reported in 2015, from the Clinton administration to the Obama administration’s second term, the NSC’s staff “had quadrupled in size, to nearly 400 people.” That is why Trump began streamlining the NSC staff in 2017.

According to Morrison, what the media media is conveying to the public – that the Trump “dissolved the office” at the White House in charge of pandemic preparedness, was really the result of streamlining, three important directorates and merging them into one stronger, single directorate:

One such move at the NSC was to create the counterproliferation and biodefense directorate, which was the result of consolidating three directorates into one, given the obvious overlap between arms control and nonproliferation, weapons of mass destruction terrorism, and global health and biodefense. It is this reorganization that critics have misconstrued or intentionally misrepresented. If anything, the combined directorate was stronger because related expertise could be commingled.

While confident about current levels of staffing, Morrison goes on to address why this matters enough to speak up about the mischaracterization, whether unintentional or willful:

It matters because when people play politics in the middle of a crisis, we are all less safe…less safe because public servants are distracted when they are dragged into politics…less safe because the American people have been recklessly scared into doubting the competence of their government to help keep them safe, secure and healthy…less safe because when we’re focused on political gamesmanship, we’re not paying enough attention to the real issues…we should be united behind ensuring that, in a future congressional appropriations package, U.S. companies are encouraged to return to our shores from China the production of everything from medical face masks and personal protective equipment to vitamin C and penicillin.


Happy Birthday to My Dad

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:08 am

As I have done every March 17 since I started this blog, I am wishing my Dad a Happy Birthday.

It is a tradition to note my previous similar posts on this special day. And so I am.

He would have been 95 today.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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