The Biden administration is considering using federal regulatory powers and the threat of withholding federal funds from institutions to push more Americans to get vaccinated — a huge potential shift in the fight against the virus and a far more muscular approach to getting shots into arms, according to four people familiar with the deliberations.
The effort could apply to institutions as varied as long-term-care facilities, cruise ships and universities, potentially impacting millions of Americans, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations.
The conversations are in the early phases and no firm decisions have been made, the people said. One outside lawyer in touch with the Biden administration on the issue is recommending that the president use federal powers sparingly.
There is a particular focus in the discussions on whether restrictions on Medicare dollars or other federal funds could be used to persuade nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities to require employees to be vaccinated, according to one of the people familiar with the talks.
If the Biden administration goes forward with the plans, it would amount to a dramatic escalation in the effort to vaccinate the roughly 90 million Americans who are eligible for shots but who have refused or have been unable to get them.
The discussion at the highest level of government also signals a new phase of potential federal intervention as the White House struggles to control the delta variant of the virus, which is spreading more rapidly than even some of the more dire models predicted.
But such drastic moves are likely to trigger further backlash from many Republican-leaning regions where vaccine hesitancy has been highest, agitating conservatives already skeptical of the Biden administration and its use of federal power. The administration has already said that federal workers and contractors must be vaccinated or wear masks, and the Pentagon is considering similar requirements.
Several experts noted that even if President Biden’s team could force Americans to begin getting shots as soon as this week, it still takes five to six more weeks for mRNA inoculations — which require a second shot — to be fully effective. That means infection rates could keep rising in the short term no matter what steps are taken on vaccinations.
When asked about vaccine mandates after a Thursday event on electric vehicles, Biden said his administration was looking at its options as he encouraged all Americans to get vaccinated. The White House declined to comment for this story.
The talks within the administration come amid calls from many public health experts for a more aggressive federal approach to vaccinations. The country reported more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, an infection rate on par with early February, before vaccines were widely available. On Thursday, the rolling seven-day daily average of new infections was at 95,000 new cases.
“I think wisely using the federal spending power is absolutely right,” said Lawrence Gostin, who directs Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and said he has discussed the idea of using federal funds as an incentive with Biden administration officials.
Gostin said he has suggested the White House use its power judiciously, not by “bludgeoning the private sector” but rather by “starting with high-risk settings with an absolute ethical obligation and legal obligation to keep your workers and your clients safe.”
Other leading experts have publicly floated the idea of using more federal incentives to push for vaccinations as a lever that Biden and his administration could use.
“If you look through history, there are presidents who — even in the absence of legal authority — influence people, you might say,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who recently organized a joint statement from nearly 60 medical groups urging every health facility to require workers to get vaccinated. “We keep referring to this covid thing like it’s an emergency and then we don’t behave like it’s a wartime emergency.”
Friday, August 6, 2021
The Biden jobs economy is in fact ridin' as the country added 943,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.4%, but the rise of delta is almost certainly going to bring this ride to a crawl.
The American economy roared into midsummer with a strong gain in hiring, but there are questions about its ability to maintain that momentum as the Delta variant of the coronavirus causes growing concern.
Employers added 943,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department reported Friday, but the data was collected in the first half of the month, before variant-related cases exploded in many parts of the country.
While the economy and job growth overall have been strong in recent months, experts fear that the variant’s spread could undermine those gains if new restrictions become necessary. Already, some events have been canceled, and many companies have pulled back from plans for employees to return to the office in September.
Still, with schools planning to reopen, at least for now, and Americans continuing to dine out and travel, the economy’s expansion remained on track last month. Some experts foresee a slight cooling on the horizon, but most think unemployment will keep falling as the labor market recovers the ground lost in the pandemic.
“It’s been a sprint in terms of growth, but we may be moving into more of a marathon,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “Travel season is winding down, and the Delta variant is a big concern.”
The unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent, compared with 5.9 percent in June. Before the report, the consensus of economists polled by Bloomberg forecast a gain of 858,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate dipping to 5.7 percent.
Despite the hiring gains, many managers report difficulty in finding applicants for open positions. Jeanine Lisa Klotzkin manages an outpatient addiction treatment center in White Plains, N.Y., and has had only limited success in her search for addiction counselors.
“Normally, we’d have dozens of candidates,” she said. But six weeks after posting an online job ad, her clinic has received four applications. The positions pay $50,000 to $63,000 a year, said Ms. Klotzkin, who added: “These aren’t low-wage jobs. I don’t know where the people went.”
Former Yahoo News WH reporter Hunter Walker now has his own blog, The Uprising (Everything comes around again, does that make me a hipster?) and got a hold of The Former Guy's™ "evidence" of election fraud by apparently asking very nicely, and it's hysterically bad stuff.
The Uprising has obtained an unpublished statement from former President Donald Trump detailing his purported evidence that the 2020 election "was shattered with fraud and irregularities.” The information doesn’t prove any plot to manipulate the vote, but it does clearly show the workings of a complex effort to spread false election narratives.
An analysis of Trump’s evidence demonstrates how instrumental the right wing media ecosystem, dark money, and Republican officials are to fueling and spreading the former president’s so-called Big Lie about the 2020 presidential vote.
First, it’s important to explain why the former president’s inaccurate election diatribes matter.
America's largest social media companies deplatformed Trump during his final weeks as president. After leaving office, Trump has continued to promote false conspiracies about his election loss to Joe Biden and now largely relies on allies and emailed statements to spread his messages.
Some argue that Trump’s false election narratives should be ignored completely, but the former president’s communiques are part of a much larger, influential context.
With Trump hosting rallies and holding meetings with what his allies have dubbed a “Cabinet,” it’s clear that questioning the integrity of President Biden’s election victory is a key part of the strategy and messaging for Trump and the GOP going forward.
As Jane Mayer documented in this week’s New Yorker, the spread of Trump’s conspiratorial narrative by elected officials and partisan outlets is happening in parallel with a pre-existing push by well-financed conservative groups to change election laws and infrastructure around the country. And the Big Lie has already had tragic real-world ramifications: Trump’s claims about the 2020 election were a main driver of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which is another main subject of misinformation from Trump and other Republicans.
Officials from multiple agencies in Trump’s own administration have confirmed the election was the most secure in American history and that there was no widespread fraud. Trump and his allies filed over forty lawsuits challenging the results. Many were plagued with “elementary errors” and all of them failed. Trump supporters also pointed to statistics to suggest the results were questionable. An analysis by Stanford’s conservative leaning Hoover Institution found none of those statistical claims was “ even remotely convincing.” While experts acknowledge instances of small-scale fraud tend to happen in large elections, it is extremely rare and not a significant enough issue to be decisive on the national level. Nevertheless, conservatives have focused on alleged voter fraud for years as they have advocated for restrictions on voting. And Trump has continued to aggressively promote false claims about his loss last year through personal appearances, interviews with conservative outlets, and written statements emailed to his robust press list.
These email blasts have become Trump’s most frequent mode of communication and effectively replaced his once omnipresent tweets. The former president’s emails sometimes come more than once a day and have covered petty personal feuds, political endorsements, criticism of his successor, and his efforts to cast doubt on the election.
While the content is quite similar to Trump’s past social media streams, his emailed statements don’t generate nearly as much coverage. (That is, in part, due to deliberate decisions by mainstream media outlets who are wrestling with how to handle disinformation spread by Trump and his allies.)
Nevertheless, Trump’s statements reach his base through his personal website and by being laundered through his Republican allies and conservative media. As the following analysis illustrates, Trump’s claims would not be possible without the inspiration and support of opaquely-funded partisan groups and websites, as well as major figures in conservative media and politics.
The Uprising’s journey down the rabbit hole of Trump’s election conspiracy theory industrial complex began on August 1, when the former president issued an emailed statement railing against media outlets who note his fraud claims are made without evidence when covering his remarks.
Trump described this contextualization by journalists as the work of a “crooked and collusive media” and insisted there is “irrefutable evidence” the vote was rigged. But Trump’s 280-word public statement insisting there is “massive and unconditional evidence” contained no actual specific evidence.
The Uprising reached out to Trump’s new spokeswoman, Liz Harrington, to ask if he had any specific evidence for his claims. Harrington, who has her own history of promoting false claims about the election and January 6, responded with a statement — which she described, somewhat paradoxically, as “a recent release we have yet to send out” that includes “numerous examples” of Trump’s evidence. Harrington subsequently confirmed that the document was directly attributable to Trump.
That document, which you can read in full here, included at least 9 individual claims. All of them are baseless, and almost all of the faulty evidence cited by Trump drew on the work of right-wing activists and media outlets. Before (and after) being amplified by Trump himself, many of these false and mischaracterized claims about the election were spread by Republican officials and influential pillars of the conservative media ecosystem — outlets including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and The Federalist — as well as websites further out on the fringe. The result is a massive disinformation feedback loop capable of reaching millions of Americans.