Afew weeks ago it seemed that the US had Coronavirus whipped. A lot has changed since then.
One of the changes is that Dr. Anthony Fauci of the Coronavirus Task Force has reemerged. Fauci testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Tuesday, telling lawmakers that the US was “going in the wrong direction” on the pandemic.
“We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around and so I am very concerned,” Fauci said, reported by CNN.
Fauci blamed both the widespread protests and the fact that people were disregarding mitigation guidelines in areas that had reopened for the sharp increase in new cases.
“We’re going to continue to be in a lot of trouble, and there’s going to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop,” Fauci said.
When asked if the pandemic was under control, Fauci answered, “I am not satisfied with what’s going on because we are going in the wrong direction if you look at the curves of the new cases, so we’ve really got to do something about that and we need to do it quickly.”
“Clearly we are not in total control right now,” he added.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, singled out young Americans, saying, “It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of Covid-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings. Specifically, I’m addressing the younger members of our society, the Millennials and the Generation Zs — I ask those that are listening to spread the word.”
“We recommend masks for everyone on the outside, anyone who comes into contact in a crowded area,” Redfield said. “You should avoid crowds where possible and when you’re outside and not have the capability of maintaining distance, you should wear a mask at all times.”
The resurgent outbreak is a trend for much of the nation. CNN reports that 36 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have reported increases of at least 10 percent over the past week. Only two states, New Jersey and Rhode Island, have reported an average daily decline of more than 10 percent.
The serious nature of the situation is underscored by the reversal of reopening policies in several Republican states. Arizona, Florida, and Texas are among at least 18 states and cities where reopening has been paused. States with Democratic governors such as North Carolina and California are also experiencing surges in new cases that have led to the decision to suspend reopening plans.
On Monday, Georgia’s Brian Kemp became the latest governor to reverse his reopening plans and extend the Peach State’s state of emergency. The two executive orders extend the testing and health procurement rules, which were set to expire on June 30, through August 11 and extend social distancing guidelines through at least July 15.
In a split from President Trump, Vice President Pence appeared in a mask over the weekend and urged Americans to follow suit, saying, “Wearing a mask is just a good idea and we know, from experience, will slow the spread of the Coronavirus.” The president has yet to wear a mask in public or advocate that his supporters do so.
The pandemic’s effect on the economy is becoming an election issue. A new Gallup poll this week found that President Trump’s rating on the economy had fallen by 16 points since January. While the president is not responsible for the onset of the pandemic, he is responsible for the Administration’s reaction to it. President Trump has long been a major proponent of quickly reopening the country.
Even before the recent uptick in cases, the US had the highest acknowledged number of Coronavirus cases and deaths in the world. On a per capita basis, the US ranked ninth in terms of deaths and and 12th in cases per Worldmeters.
At this point, many or most Americans on both sides of the political spectrum seem to have discarded mitigation strategies of social distancing and masks. It makes no difference to the virus whether it is transmitted by leftist protesters, conservatives at church or in businesses, or millennial partiers. The science is the same.
It is no longer clear whether Americans have the will to continue the inconveniences of social distancing and wearing masks. Given the broad spread of the virus, it may be too late to contain the outbreak even if we redouble our efforts. The United States may be about to experience the worst of both worlds with an economic recession paired with an out-of-control plague.
The election is not over yet. In fact, it is still more than four months away. Still, I have a strong feeling that when the post-mortems of the 2020 election are written, it will be this week that marked a turning point for Donald Trump. To paraphrase the old song from “Hee Haw,” this week has been one in which “if it weren’t for bad news, the president would have no news at all.”
Even though President Trump has consistently trailed in polling, this week it got worse with Joe Biden opening up a double-digit lead in many polls. The Real Clear Politics polling average currently stands at 9.4 points and the president has not led in a poll since February. The last time he tied Biden in a poll was in April.
The damage is not limited to national polling. Biden is opening up wider leads in swing states and even red states are becoming competitive. That Trump trails in all seven swing states is not new. What is new is that Biden leads in the only recent polling in Georgia and Texas. While many are skeptical of polls, the Trump campaign is taking them seriously enough to begin buying ads in normally deep-red Georgia.
The Trumpian implosion in the polls is not out of the blue. In fact, it is amazing that it has taken this long. Rather, the decline is driven by Trump’s inadequate response to a multitude of crises. Joe Biden’s increasing lead is mirrored by Donald Trump’s rapidly dropping job approval. From a high of 47 percent in mid-March per the Real Clear Politics average, Trump’s approval has dropped to 41.6 percent. This represents a net disapproval of more than 14 points.
After more than three years in office, the president’s re-election hopes are being sunk by his incompetent handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic crisis, and the race riots and protests sweeping the nation. While the minds of many anti-Trump voters have been made up for months, if not years, the new factor is that Trump’s base seems to be splintering. Two key Trump demographics, seniors and evangelicals, seem to be softening in their support of the president. To make matters worse, polling shows moderates and independents are swinging away from Trump and towards Biden.
Part of the reason for the growing dissatisfaction with Trump is his response to the riots and civil unrest that has gripped the country for a month now. Some of it is also due to the worsening pandemic.
A few weeks ago, it seemed that the curve was being flattened and the worst was behind us. That was before many states tried to get back to normal and thousands of people took to the streets. Now, 48 states are reporting increasing numbers of new cases and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is warning that the “window is closing for us to take action and get this under control.” Getting the pandemic under control has been made more difficult by the president’s insistence on getting back to normal and his supporters’ ridicule of masks and other mitigation strategies.
If all that wasn’t enough, two new scandals erupted about President Trump this week. The first may grow to be the most serious threat to his presidency since the revelations of the Ukraine quid pro quo. In this new scandal, a New York Times report revealed that the Trump Administration knew for months that Russia had offered Taliban fighters a bounty to kill US and allied soldiers in Afghanistan and did nothing.
The White House has denied that President Trump and Vice President Pence were briefed on the intelligence, but this defense, that members of the Trump Administration did not do their jobs, does not bolster the Administration’s credibility. Not responding to alleged Russian targeting of American soldiers undercuts the president’s tough-guy image and makes him seem indecisive and incompetent at best.
The bigger question is why the Adminstration is still mostly silent. NPR notes that the White House does not dispute the substance of the intelligence assessment’s claim, only that Trump and Pence were aware of it. Whether he has known about the bounties for months or merely days, Trump has yet to criticize Putin’s Russia for its actions.
The second scandal, which broke Sunday morning, was president Trump’s retweet of a video in which an elderly Trump supporter in Florida can be seen yelling, “White power.” Trump commented, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages” on the retweet, which has uncharacteristically been deleted. The original tweet with the video is linked below.
The “White Power” retweet is yet another in a long series of unforced errors by President Trump. The retweet is just one more example of Mr. Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip impulsivity coming back to bite him. Retweeting a “white power” salute would never be good for a president but today’s racial tensions make the mistake all the more devastating.
The mounting bad news is threatening to fracture the Republican Party’s support for Trump. Charles Gasparino, a Fox Business panelist, tweeted this morning that “GOP operatives” are not-quite-openly talking about the possibility that the president could drop out before the election if “his poll numbers don’t rebound.” While it would be hard for me to believe that Trump would decide to bow out, it is possible that Republicans could decide to cut their losses and concentrate on preserving their Senate majority by distancing themselves from Trump.
With the election four months away, there is still time for a shakeup in the race, but, after four years of Trump, it is increasingly clear that what you see is what you get. There are still some faithful souls who believe that Donald Trump can become presidential and rise to the occasion. That isn’t going to happen. If the election remains a referendum on Donald Trump, Republicans are in for a bad night.
Much has been made of Joe Biden’s disappearance, but even though Sleepy Joe is a deeply flawed candidate himself, he is smart enough to follow the old military maxim, “Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself.” So, don’t look for Biden on the campaign trail as long as Trump keeps stepping on his own toes. And that might be a while. November, even. Donald Trump just can’t help himself and he won’t listen to people who could help him.
The Supreme Court has ruled that President Trump cannot unilaterally end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program begun by President Obama. President Trump had sought to use his executive authority to end the program which exercised “prosecutorial discretion” in delaying deportation of illegal immigrants who arrived as children and met certain other requirements. An obvious question is how the Supreme Court could overrule an executive decision to end a program that had its origins in another executive decision.
Today’s decision was written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined in full by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan. Justice Sotomayor joined in all but Part IV of the opinion, which yielded a 5-4 decision against the president.
The ruling stemmed from the fact that Elaine Duke, former United States Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security at the time of Trump’s decision to end DACA, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielson provided inconsistent and incomplete explanations of why the DACA rule was being rescinded.
Writing for the Court, Roberts explained, “Duke treated the Attorney General’s conclusion regarding the illegality of benefits as sufficient to rescind both benefits and forbearance, without explanation. That reasoning repeated the error in Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association of the United States, Inc. v. State Farm— treating a rationale that applied to only part of a policy as sufficient to rescind the entire policy.”
“In failing to consider the option to retain deferred action, Duke ‘failed to supply the requisite ‘reasoned analysis,’”Roberts further explains.
The Court also found that Duke failed to determine whether there was “‘legitimate reliance’ on the DACA Memorandum.”
“DHS has flexibility in addressing any reliance interests and could have considered various accommodations,” Roberts explained for the Court. “While the agency was not required to pursue these accommodations, it was required to assess the existence and strength of any reliance interests, and weigh them against competing policy concerns.”
Roberts added that Nielson’s explanations for the rescission added “several new justifications” to the rescission while taking no new actions. The Court determined that since no additional steps were taken, Nielson “was limited to elaborating on the agency’s original reasons. But her reasoning bears little relationship to that of her predecessor and consists primarily of impermissible ‘post hoc rationalization.’”
The Court found that Duke’s two errors were “arbitrary and capricious” and thus were in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
In Part IV of the ruling, the majority less Sotomayor found that “respondents’ claims fail to establish a plausible inference that the rescission was motivated by animus in violation of the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.”
“The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may reconsider the problem anew,” Roberts wrote.
Justice Thomas filed an opinion that concurred in part and dissented in part. This opinion was joined by Justices Alito and Gorsuch. Justices Alito and Kavanaugh also wrote opinions that both dissented and concurred in part.
The conservative wing of the Court took issue with the majority opinion that DHS should try again. Alito wrote, “The Court still does not resolve the question of DACA’s rescission. Instead, it tells the Department of Homeland Security to go back and try again.”
Thomas attacked DACA’s legal status, writing, “No party disputes that the immigration statutes lack an express delegation to accomplish either result. And, an examination of the highly reticulated immigration regime makes clear that DHS has no implicit discretion to create new classes of lawful presence or to grant relief from removal out of whole cloth. Accordingly, DACA is substantively unlawful.”
“This conclusion should begin and end our review,” Thomas continued, adding, “The majority’s contrary holding—that an agency is not only permitted, but required, to continue an ultra vires action—has no basis in law.”
“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Thomas wrote. “The Court could have made clear that the solution respondents seek must come from the Legislative Branch.”
Police in Atlanta demonstrated the need for civilians to be able to protect themselves last night when a large number of officers allegedly failed to report for overnight shifts. This morning the Atlanta Police Department has disputed the extent of the walkout, telling 11 Alive News that the reports were “inaccurate,” but Atlanta’s mayor said last night that there were insufficient officers to patrol the city.
“We do have enough officers to cover us through the night,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) told CNN. “Our streets won’t be any less safe because of the number of officers who called out.”
The officers were reportedly upset over the decisions to fire and prosecute the two officers involved in the death of Rayshard Brooks over the weekend. Brooks’s death reignited protests and violence in the city.
The APD responded to the rumors with a tweet that said there were “a higher than usual number of call outs for the incoming shift” but that the force still enough manpower to “maintain operations and respond to incidents.”
The possibility of mass walkouts leaving cities without police protection is a logical result of the current leftist war against police. Police forces around the country have been demonized in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The death of Rayshard Brooks is less clear cut than that of Floyd. Brooks, who was intoxicated, resisted arrest and grabbed an officer’s taser before attempting to flee. One of the officers shot and killed Brooks after the fugitive fired the taser at the officers.
Multiple things are true in the case. One is that Brooks should not be dead. The shooting is very questionable based upon Supreme Court guidelines that say suspects can only be shot in the back if they are armed and dangerous. It’s also true that, even if the shooting was bad, Brooks bears some responsibility due to his wildly inappropriate behavior. A third truth is that a murder conviction of the officers would be unlikelay under the circumstances.
It is understandable that other Atlanta officers would be upset about what they see as a political move to indict their fellow cops. This is especially true given the events of the past few weeks in which police have been rhetorically attacked and insulted on top of having to deal with a long string of protests and riots.
Yet the possibility of a police walkout leaves law-abiding citizens in the lurch. Criminals will have a field day if police don’t show up for work. With few police to respond to emergencies, let alone routine duties, citizens must be prepared to protect themselves.
This would not be the first time that police have left citizens in harm’s way. In situations such as the LA riots, Hurricane Katrina, and all over the country for the past few weeks, citizens have been left to their own defense. In Warren v. District of Columbia in 2005, the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that police do not have a constitutional duty to protect private citizens.
The alleged Atlanta police walkout is just one more example of how law-abiding citizens should be ready, willing, and able to defend themselves. But this takes preparation. If you don’t have a gun, you should consider getting one. You should also get training that teaches you how to use it safely.
Although the economy is hurting, in many crises there are hidden bright spots. While many businesses are operating on life support, certain sectors of the economy are being boosted by the current economic situation. One of these is the mortgage industry.
The mortgage industry is benefitting from very low-interest rates, which help to fuel demand for new loans. CNBC reports that the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate loan has declined to 3.30 percent. The Federal Reserve cut interest rates to zero in mid-March in an effort to help boost the economy.
As a result of the dropping rates, mortgage applications are up 21 percent over last year. Almost two-thirds of the new loan applications are for refinances of existing loans rather than new purchases. Since many Americans have been laid off, furloughed, or have otherwise lost income due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a mortgage refinance is an alternative way to improve cash flow.
The growing popularity of refinances does not mean that the real estate sales market is tanking, however. So far, residential real estate prices 9have weathered the storm even as house listings have increased per MarketWatch. The reason is that surging demand has propped up real estate values.
HousingWire reported that seasonally adjusted demand for houses was 25 percent above pre-pandemic levels. High demand has led to bidding wars and nearly half of new listings are sold within 14 days.
The pandemic may have lasting effects on the real estate market, however. After a firsthand look at the risks of contagion within urban areas, homebuyers seem to be trending toward rural and suburban homes. City homes are currently spending more time on the market before a sale than their country cousins.
I was one of the many Americans to take advantage of low interest rates to refinance our mortgage over the past few months. Even though we had only been in our home for about two years, we took advantage of the low rates. This was made possible by the fact that home values had not declined as the economy faltered.
If you are thinking about refinancing your mortgage, there are a few factors to consider. If you have a high interest rate or an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and you also have good credit and stable income, this could be a great time to save money with a refinance. As a rule of thumb, if you can save more than one point on your interest rate and plan to stay in your home five years or longer, you could benefit from a refinance.
In our case, we got a new interest rate that is 1.5 points lower than our old one. The new, lower payment will offset the closing costs of the loan in about two years.
If you need extra money and have equity in your house, you can also use a refinance to pay off other debts or get cash out. I would recommend proceeding cautiously with these options, however, since you lose equity and may put your home at greater risk if you lose your job. Less equity also means that your home may be more difficult to sell, especially if home values start to decline.
If you’re interested in a refinance but need to clean up your credit or build more of a work history, you may not have to hurry. Interest rates are currently at record lows, but they may not return to normal for a while. Most members of the Fed say that they don’t plan on raising rates until 2023.
A new poll from Reuters that is hot off the presses this morning shows that Joe Biden may be pulling away from Donald Trump in the race for the presidency. The new poll shows the Democrat with a 13-point lead over the incumbent President Trump.
Reuters/Ipsos found that 48 percent of registered voters preferred Biden while only 35 percent leaned toward Trump. This is Biden’s largest advantage in the poll since the Democratic primaries began.
Additional bad news for Donald Trump was that 57 percent of voters disapproved of Trump’s job performance while only 38 percent approved. The president’s job approval has last registered at this low point in November 2019 in the midst of impeachment. Even more alarming for the president’s re-election campaign, his approval among Republicans was down 13 points since March.
The new poll is not the only one that shows a growing lead for Joe Biden. The Real Clear Politics average shows that Biden’s lead has doubled since the end of February when he led Trump by four points. The current average of polling shows Biden with an eight-point lead.
With President Trump consistently trailing in the polls, the Trump campaign’s hopes have been pinned on the swing states. However, as Biden’s lead grows in national polling, an Electoral College victory in swing states seems less likely. Most observers believe that an Electoral College victory is almost impossible if Trump loses the popular vote by more than about five points.
Because the Electoral College is what really counts in presidential elections, here is a rundown on how the swing states are currently stacking up based on Real Clear Politics averages. You can compare these current results to my last polling analysis posted on June 4.
Arizona: Biden has expanded his average lead to four points and leads in almost all polls.
Florida: Biden has expanded his lead to 4.6 points.
Michigan: Biden has expanded his lead to 8.6 points.
North Carolina: The polling average is a tie, but Biden led in both polls from June.
Ohio: Trump leads by half a point. This is a shift from my previous analysis but the change is based on a single poll in which Trump led by three points.
Pennsylvania: Biden has expanded his lead to 5.6 points.
Wisconsin: Biden expands his lead to 5.4 percent.
The current state polling indicates that Biden is likely to flip five states (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) while two states remain true tossups (North Carolina and Ohio). If these results hold until Election Day, the result would be a 318-220 Electoral College win for Joe Biden. This figure assumes that both North Carolina and Ohio would stay in the Trump column.
Keeping in mind that polls are a snapshot of the present and not predictive of the future, it is possible that Donald Trump can reverse these trends before the election. Time is slipping away, however, and the president has shown no capacity to reach beyond his base to stem the electoral bleeding. If current trends continue until November, it is likely that Donald Trump will not only lose the election but that he will do so badly.