Sunday, May 10, 2020

Last Call For Biden, His Time, Con't

CNN polling guru Harry Enten notes that Joe Biden's six-point lead over Donald Trump has been steady as a rock since January, which means COVID-19 and the Trump Depression might not be affecting how people vote.


A new Monmouth University poll finds that former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 50% to 41%. When Rep. Justin Amash is included as the Libertarian Party candidate, it's Biden 47%, Trump 40% and Amash 5%.

The poll is largely in line with the average poll since April that puts Biden 6 points ahead of Trump nationally.

What's the point: Biden's lead is about as steady as it can possibly be. Not only is he up 6 points over the last month or so, but the average of polls since the beginning of the year has him ahead by 6 points. Moreover, all the polls taken since the beginning of 2019 have him up 6 points.

The steadiness in the polls is record breaking. Biden's advantage is the steadiest in a race with an incumbent running since at least 1944. That could mean it'll be harder to change the trajectory of the race going forward, though this remains more than close enough that either candidate could easily win.

To know this, I went back and looked at how all the national polls deviated from each other during January to early May of the election year.

This year, 95% of all the individual polls so far have shown a result within 6 points of the average. That's basically what you'd expect if you took a lot of polls and the race wasn't moving (i.e. the only shifts are statistical noise from sampling). It's a ridiculously small range historically speaking.

The previous low for a similarly constructed 95% confidence interval was 8 points (2012). The median cycle featured a 95% interval of 13 points from the average of polls. In other words, about double the range of the polls we have seen so far in 2020.

Sometimes, of course, the range of results can be even wider than the median cycle. Lyndon Johnson had anywhere from about a 35-point advantage to a more than 60-point lead over Barry Goldwater in the early months of 1964. Jimmy Carter opened 1980 with a 30-point or greater lead in some of the polls over Ronald Reagan. By early May, his lead was down to single digits, and he even trailed Reagan in a few polls.

The 1964, 1980 and 2004 campaigns are of particular interest because they both had shocks to the system within a few months of the beginning of the election year. John Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, Iranians took Americans hostage in November 1979 and the US captured Saddam Hussein in December 2003. The first two were especially volatile, while 2004 saw some change. George W. Bush's polling edge climbed into the double digits and sometimes north of 15 points in early January 2004. By the end of April, he was trading leads with John Kerry.

This year, we've seen pretty much none of those shifts in the national polls, even as we've had a once-in-a-lifetime health pandemic. That might make you doubt that the polls will move a lot going forward in 2020.

So are the polls wrong?  The national polls were pretty much spot on in 2016, Clinton won the national vote by 3 points, but lost the electoral college because the state polls in 2016 were off by miles, especially in the Rust Belt. State polls in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin were catastrophically wrong because there were still tons of undecided voters that came in at the last minute for Trump.

But "Biden by six" has been where the national polls have been for nearly 18 months now, and not even a deadly global pandemic and a global depression seems to be shaking that up much at all.

I expect that to change.  People are still in survival mode now, and before that, well, before that the election was more than six months off. People are going to be paying attention, and the question will be how many people are motivated to actually vote in November, or in mail balloting before Election Day.

There's a reason why the GOP is trying to stop voting by mail. It dooms them as a party, and they know it. Turnlut will be more important than the polls this year, and finding a solution to voting in the era of COVID is key. For the GOP, stopping that is their only means of survival and they will do anything to end it.

Just sayin'.

The Revenge Of Austerity Hysteria

Trump's COVID-19 incompetence forced California to shut down, and now the state has gone from a $16 billion surplus to a $54 billion hole in just two months.  It's not a rainy day, it's a typhoon.

California faces a $54.3 billion deficit as the coronavirus pandemic hammers the economy, the state's worst budget gap since the Great Recession, state finance officials said Thursday.

The shortfall is almost 37 percent of the current $147.8 billion general fund budget and foretells widespread program cuts absent a federal bailout. K-12 schools and community colleges stand to lose $18 billion alone and are clamoring for money to adapt campuses to a new social distancing reality.
The Department of Finance released its projections in a rare fiscal update a week before Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to roll out his May budget revision, his first post-coronavirus spending plan. The deficit projection extends to the remainder of this fiscal year and through the 2020-21 period that starts July 1.

Newsom said Wednesday that he expects a prolonged economic downturn. The Finance document suggests that income losses will be far deeper than during the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

“It’s going to take longer than I think a lot of people think,” Newsom said.

"We’ve never experienced anything like this in our lifetime,” he said, adding that the national unemployment rate will soar to “Depression-era numbers.”

The bulk of the deficit comes from a projected $41.2 billion revenue decline over the next 14 months, a drop from the ebullient outlook the state had just four months earlier, according to the Department of Finance. Forecasters believe the state's big three tax sources — personal income, sales and corporations — will plunge about 25 percent.

As usually happens in a recession, the state will likely see soaring demand for health and human services programs, adding $7.1 billion in costs, the Finance Department said. California can expect to spend $6 billion on other new expenditures, most related to the coronavirus response.

The numbers are staggering, but they can be viewed with a grain of salt. No fiscal forecaster has a confident handle on how the next year — let alone the next several years — will play out, because so much depends on how Covid-19 affects economic activity. The virus is unpredictable, as are the health care and government responses.

While Newsom sees a long downturn, some economists believe a V-shaped rebound is possible after a painful year.

California budget experts say it is likely the Legislature will have to build in contingencies, such as trigger cuts, in case the revenue decline worsens. The Legislature might have to rewrite the budget at least once in the fiscal year, as happened in 2008-09 during the last recession.

The new forecast marks a stark reversal for a state that had been riding high on surpluses and growing reserves in recent years, building confidence before Covid-19 that California might have recession-proofed itself.

The state can count on roughly $16 billion in savings to buffer the deficit impacts — much more than other states — but the budget gap is still nearly three-and-a-half times the size of that rainy day stockpile, Finance points out.

The $54.3 billion estimate is far higher than the roughly $35 billion figure that Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek presented to lawmakers in April. Still, the new projection nominally falls below the roughly $60 billion gap the state dealt with in 2009 in two separate budget actions. And as a percentage of the state general fund, the new deficit is still smaller than the one the state faced that year.

This is frankly a rosy outlook.  I think it's going to be tens of billions of dollars worse than predicted because revenues are not going to recover until there's a vaccine, and that could take a year, 18 months, maybe more.  Systemic economic effects as the Trump Depression spreads will multiply the revenue losses.

A housing crash on top of everything else -- almost expected at this point and I don't understand why people aren't admitting it will happen -- plus long-term unemployment for millions of Californians, will knock the blocks out from under states.

Trump won't lift a finger to help, either.  There's no "Phase 4" bill coming.  Not to help states, which will need at least a half-trillion to stave off massive cuts and that's just for starters. And for the rest of us, Trump and the GOP will finally get what they've been looking to get for decades now: massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Senior Trump administration officials are growing increasingly wary of the massive federal spending to combat the economic downturn and are considering ways to limit the impact of future stimulus efforts on the national debt, according to six administration officials and four external advisers familiar with the matter.

While no one in the administration is advocating immediate cuts, the unease among senior Trump advisers about federal spending comes as the White House halts talks with Congress on additional emergency measures to rescue a U.S. economy facing its worst crisis in generations.

Some White House officials have gone as far as exploring policies such as automatic spending cuts as the economy improves, or prepaying Social Security benefits to workers before they become eligible, although these measures are unlikely to advance given the political stakes, said these officials and advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of internal deliberations.

The concerns about the deficit are coming from traditional conservatives at the White House, including new chief of staff Mark Meadows and acting budget director Russ Vought. But officials say they are likely to face much more skepticism from President Trump himself. Trump has shown little interest since becoming president in shrinking the deficit and has so far stood firm on his campaign pledge not to alter Social Security.

It’s unclear how hard conservatives will push Trump on the deficit. As the novel coronavirus crisis has intensified, Trump has cut deals with congressional Democrats that largely ignored the impact on the federal debt, approving more than $2 trillion in spending already.

Trump doesn't want to lose so some spending has already happened (most of it to the rich, mind you), but congressional Republicans are clearly betting on saddling Joe Biden with a deficit so large that it guarantees Biden will have to be the axe man in the future.

We'll see what happens, but the worse this gets, the less I see any help to the states coming.

Sunday Long Read: Fed To The Mammon Machine

This week's Sunday Long Read is simply the essential Adam Serwer on COVID-19 and the racial contract.

Six weeks ago, Ahmaud Arbery went out and never came home. Gregory and Travis McMichael, who saw Arbery running through their neighborhood just outside of Brunswick, Georgia, and who told authorities they thought he was a burglary suspect, armed themselves, pursued Arbery, and then shot him dead.

The local prosecutor, George E. Barnhill, concluded that no crime had been committed. Arbery had tried to wrest a shotgun from Travis McMichael before being shot, Barnhill wrote in a letter to the police chief. The two men who had seen a stranger running, and decided to pick up their firearms and chase him, had therefore acted in self-defense when they confronted and shot him, Barnhill concluded. On Tuesday, as video of the shooting emerged on social media, a different Georgia prosecutor announced that the case would be put to a grand jury; the two men were arrested and charged with murder yesterday evening after video of the incident sparked national outrage across the political spectrum.

To see the sequence of events that led to Arbery’s death as benign requires a cascade of assumptions. One must assume that two men arming themselves and chasing down a stranger running through their neighborhood is a normal occurrence. One must assume that the two armed white men had a right to self-defense, and that the black man suddenly confronted by armed strangers did not. One must assume that state laws are meant to justify an encounter in which two people can decide of their own volition to chase, confront, and kill a person they’ve never met.

But Barnhill’s leniency is selective—as The Appeal’s Josie Duffy Rice notes, Barnhill attempted to prosecute Olivia Pearson, a black woman, for helping another black voter use an electronic voting machine. A crime does not occur when white men stalk and kill a black stranger. A crime does occur when black people vote.

The underlying assumptions of white innocence and black guilt are all part of what the philosopher Charles Mills calls the “racial contract.” If the social contract is the implicit agreement among members of a society to follow the rules—for example, acting lawfully, adhering to the results of elections, and contesting the agreed-upon rules by nonviolent means—then the racial contract is a codicil rendered in invisible ink, one stating that the rules as written do not apply to nonwhite people in the same way. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal; the racial contract limits this to white men with property. The law says murder is illegal; the racial contract says it’s fine for white people to chase and murder black people if they have decided that those black people scare them. “The terms of the Racial Contract,” Mills wrote, “mean that nonwhite subpersonhood is enshrined simultaneously with white personhood.”

The racial contract is not partisan—it guides staunch conservatives and sensitive liberals alike—but it works most effectively when it remains imperceptible to its beneficiaries. As long as it is invisible, members of society can proceed as though the provisions of the social contract apply equally to everyone. But when an injustice pushes the racial contract into the open, it forces people to choose whether to embrace, contest, or deny its existence
. Video evidence of unjustified shootings of black people is so jarring in part because it exposes the terms of the racial contract so vividly. But as the process in the Arbery case shows, the racial contract most often operates unnoticed, relying on Americans to have an implicit understanding of who is bound by the rules, and who is exempt from them.

The implied terms of the racial contract are visible everywhere for those willing to see them. A 12-year-old with a toy gun is a dangerous threat who must be met with lethal force; armed militias drawing beads on federal agents are heroes of liberty. Struggling white farmers in Iowa taking billions in federal assistance are hardworking Americans down on their luck; struggling single parents in cities using food stamps are welfare queens. Black Americans struggling in the cocaine epidemic are a “bio-underclass” created by a pathological culture; white Americans struggling with opioid addiction are a national tragedy. Poor European immigrants who flocked to an America with virtually no immigration restrictions came “the right way”; poor Central American immigrants evading a baroque and unforgiving system are gang members and terrorists.

The coronavirus epidemic has rendered the racial contract visible in multiple ways. Once the disproportionate impact of the epidemic was revealed to the American political and financial elite, many began to regard the rising death toll less as a national emergency than as an inconvenience
. Temporary measures meant to prevent the spread of the disease by restricting movement, mandating the wearing of masks, or barring large social gatherings have become the foulest tyranny. The lives of workers at the front lines of the pandemic—such as meatpackers, transportation workers, and grocery clerks—have been deemed so worthless that legislators want to immunize their employers from liability even as they force them to work under unsafe conditions. In East New York, police assault black residents for violating social-distancing rules; in Lower Manhattan, they dole out masks and smiles to white pedestrians.

Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, with its vows to enforce state violence against Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and black Americans, was built on a promise to enforce terms of the racial contract that Barack Obama had ostensibly neglected, or violated by his presence. Trump’s administration, in carrying out an explicitly discriminatory agenda that valorizes cruelty, war crimes, and the entrenchment of white political power, represents a revitalized commitment to the racial contract.

But the pandemic has introduced a new clause to the racial contract. The lives of disproportionately black and brown workers are being sacrificed to fuel the engine of a faltering economy, by a president who disdains them. This is the COVID contract

Trump is murdering us. And history always tells us that in times of economic collapse, there is civil unrest. As long as there are enough black and brown "essential workers" to keep the supply chains running and enough holes in the safety net for us to slip through and permanently stumble out of whatever middle class aspirations we had, we will be fed to the Mammon Machine.

God I sure hope there is some civil unrest, or we're going to die.

That Old Kentucky Revival Spirit

A federal judge has sided with a group of Kentucky pastors halting Gov. Beshear's COVID-19 order preventing mass gatherings of ten or more at church services, saying it violates the First Amendment.

A federal court halted the Kentucky governor’s temporary ban on mass gatherings from applying to in-person religious services, clearing the way for Sunday church services.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove on Friday issued a temporary restraining order enjoining Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration from enforcing the ban on mass gatherings at “any in-person religious service which adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines.”

The ruling from the Eastern District of Kentucky sided with the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville, but applies to all places of worship around the commonwealth. Two other federal judges, including U.S. District Judge David Hale, had previously ruled the ban was constitutional. But also on Friday, Hale, of Kentucky’s western district, granted Maryville Baptist Church an injunction allowing in-person services at that specific church, provided it abide by public health requirements.

Exceptions to the Democratic governor’s shutdown order include trips to the grocery store, bank, pharmacy and hardware store. Beshear had previously announced that places of worship in Kentucky will be able to once again hold in-person services starting May 20, as part of a broader plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy. Earlier Friday, he outlined requirements for places of worship to reopen, including limiting attendance at in-person services to 33% of building occupancy capacity and maintaining 6 feet (2 meters) of distance between household units.

The federal judge’s order in the Tabernacle Baptist Church case said Beshear had “an honest motive” in wanting to safeguard Kentuckians’ health and lives, but didn’t provide “a compelling reason for using his authority to limit a citizen’s right to freely exercise something we value greatly — the right of every American to follow their conscience on matters related to religion.”

Tabernacle had broadcast services on Facebook and held drive-in services, but the substitutes offered “cold comfort,” according to the opinion. The opinion went on to say that Tabernacle alleged irreparable injury and was likely to succeed on the merits of its federal constitutional claim, as the defendants didn’t “dispute the challenged orders place a burden on the free exercise of religion in Kentucky.”

“The Constitution will endure. It would be easy to put it on the shelf in times like this, to be pulled down and dusted off when more convenient,” Van Tatenhove’s opinion read. “But that is not our tradition. Its enduring quality requires that it be respected even when it is hard.”

His opinion says Kentucky’s attorney general urged the court to apply the injunction statewide, and since the executive order challenged didn’t solely apply to Tabernacle, the injunction granted would also have a similar scope.

“Both rulings affirm that the law prohibits the government from treating houses of worship differently than secular activities during this pandemic,” Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, said in a statement late Friday.

The "If you can go to the grocery store, you can go to church" argument is now in effect in Kentucky, and what better gift to Mom this Mother's Day than a good ol' heaping helping of COVID-19 at services today, right?

It's a moot point, really, Beshear was going to reopen churches in two weeks anyway, this just advances the date to this weekend. The greater point is when Beshear issues the next round of closures -- and I guarantee you that is coming soon -- churches will remain open, and people will meet God in more ways than one.
Related Posts with Thumbnails