Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “National Newspapers”

The Double-Barreled Coronavirus Threat: Death by Virus or by Ensuing Economic Disaster


The Hill, Thursday, March 19, 11:30amThe ultimate infection and mortality rate from the coronavirus (COVID-19) is unknowable at least for weeks, but the economic fallout is not. We appear headed into serious recession, if not depression. Bad economic times also affect public health and, ultimately, we might see more deaths from a deep economic decline than from coronavirus.

On Monday, China released its economic data for January and February, when COVID-19 erupted and the country went into lockdown. The data were much worse than analysts forecast: China’s factories slumped 13.5 percent, retail sales fell 20.5 percent and home sales plummeted 34.7 percent. This, in an economy that has experienced 9.4 percent average annual growth over four decades of uninterrupted year-over-year quarterly growth.

On Wednesday, Deutsche Bank forecast a full first-quarter Chinese GDP decline of 32 percent annualized. The bank predicted a second-quarter drop of 24 percent in Europe and 13 percent in the U.S. from first-quarter levels – a decline the Wall Street Journal said “would be the biggest in recorded history.” That is why the stock market has plunged more than 30 percent and U.S. Treasury interest rates have fallen to near-zero levels. (To avoid any confusion, Wall Street is an indicator; this is not to say it is in need of a bailout.)

In the face of such drastic economic damage and associated public health deterioration, we should consider how soon and why certain of the recently adopted shutdown measures might be lifted to prevent economic Armageddon.

The general construct and rationale for our extreme measures is to spread out over time the incidence of coronavirus infections, to keep it below hospital capacity. If illness spikes above capacity, there is no treatment available for many of the afflicted, and the mortality rate spikes as the untreated die. This construct has become known as “flattening the curve,” keeping the rising curve of coronavirus cases below a straight line representing medical capacity.

Why not increase that capacity? Most of the policy discussion seems to assume that hospital capacity is relatively fixed, but China built two hospitals in Wuhan in two weeks; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called on the Army Corps of Engineers to build new hospitals here. The sooner and the more we increase capacity, the sooner we may be able to ease some of the extraordinary measures and mitigate the coming economic recession.

Continue Reading:

BLOOMBERG: WILL THE CANDIDATE MEASURE UP TO THE CAMPAIGN ARCHITECT


In the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday in Las Vegas, Michael Bloomberg the candidate badly underperformed Michael Bloomberg the brilliant campaign architect.

Architect will insulate candidate this time, preserving the hopes of many center-right Democrats that he can prevail over front runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an ardent socialist whom they consider unelectable.

Before the debate, Bloomberg the campaign
architect had maneuvered Bloomberg the candidate into third place in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls. Most likely, former Vice President Joe Biden’s epic collapse will soon leave Bloomberg in second place behind Sanders, setting up the showdown that is the predicate of Bloomberg’s candidacy.

Not being on the ballot guaranteed Bloomberg’s survival post-Iowa and post-New Hampshire, and it insulates him from paying the normal price, in Nevada and South Carolina, for his dismal debate performance in Las Vegas.

There’s no such safety net for the other candidates, who failed to carry out their necessary debate mission — namely, to slow a surging Sanders. Instead, they attacked Bloomberg and each other in a badly moderated food fight. For former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), this was a missed opportunity to revive themselves following disastrous finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.


So, unless pre-publication polling is totally wrong, Sanders will win resoundingly Saturday in Nevada’s caucuses. A big Sanders victory means yet another defeat, and perhaps a fatal one, for each of the other candidates. That includes Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., for whom it would create a serious loss of momentum going into South Carolina where his lack of black support is sure to be fatal.

Continue Reading:

Bloomberg’s Rise Surprises Pundits — Has It Surprised Trump?


When Michael Bloomberg entered the presidential race last November, he was scorned almost universally. Now, many Democrats hope desperately that he will be their savior, the only candidate who can prevail over Bernie Sanders, an ardent socialist they
consider unelectable.

After fourth and fifth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Joe Biden is toast, as is Elizabeth Warren, following her distant third and fourth place finishes.

Mayor Mike has rocketed into third place in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls, soon to pass plummeting Biden into second behind Sanders. This will set up a titanic civil war between Sandernistas and center-right Democrats.

None of this would have seemed remotely possible listening to political pundits last November. They dismissed Bloomberg’s bid, with several trite “truisms” about political tradecraft. First, money can’t buy the presidency. Second, his late entry would be fatal. Third, by skipping the first four contests, he would fall hopelessly behind. Fourth, his policy stands are all over the map, so he has no natural following or base.

First, his $50 to $66 billion (estimates vary) provide him a tremendous advantage, a massive war chest with which to beat Sanders now and Donald Trump in November.

Last November, few pundits stopped to think that, maybe, there was an obvious and compelling rationale for skipping the first four contests.

Continue Reading:

Medicaid’s Federal-State Partnership is Subverted by States’ Hospital Tax Scheme

The Medicaid program was established as a federal-state partnership, but it has become a partnership in name only as the result of a complicated maneuver in which states impose taxes on health care providers in order to extract tens of billions of dollars yearly from the U.S. Treasury via an arcane Medicaid financing mechanism. The scheme renders Medicaid almost entirely a federally financed — or over-financed — program.

Almost every state employs this tax maneuver to
trigger the annual release of matching funds over and above the money the
federal government sends as its share of reimbursements to hospitals for
medical services they provide to Medicaid patients. In a 2014
report
, the General Accountability Office
criticized these so-called provider taxes, which fall most heavily upon
hospitals.

One might wonder why the government is taxing
hospitals, which raises the cost of the nation’s primary providers of health
care services. Many are nonprofit organizations; why tax nonprofits? Many are
for-profit organizations and already pay corporate income taxes; why levy a
second tax? It is truly strange and wonderful.

Take Connecticut, for example.


Continue Reading:

Don’t count out Michael Bloomberg — his unconventional strategy might work

Michael Bloomberg’s entry into the presidential race about a week ago was panned almost universally. Political pundits dismissed his bid, many with trite “truisms” about political tradecraft. First, that money can’t buy the presidency. Second, that his late entry is fatal. Third, that by skipping the first four contests, he will fall hopelessly behind. Fourth, his policy stands are all over the map, so he has no natural following or base.

But maybe Bloomberg has a strategy. After all, if he’s so dumb, why’s he so rich? Let’s hazard some thoughts on possible strategy. Maybe Bloomberg is crazy like a fox.

First, let’s be realistic, his $50 billion provides him a tremendous advantage.

Second, pundits have deemed his late entry to be fatal, as if late entry alone were as fatal as stage four pancreatic cancer. What has passed as analysis has been limited to references to the failure of other late entrants. Yet, none of the referenced candidates had Bloomberg’s money, and virtually all failed for reasons other than late entry — and the same reasons have felled early entrants.

In 2016, late entrant Rick Perry was felled by momentary brain freeze about the third in his trademark list of three federal agencies he’d shutter. However, the earliest entrant in the 1968 contest, George Romney, was eliminated well into his campaign by just one word, “brainwashed,” and in 1972 another early contender, Ed Muskie, by a single sob on the campaign trail just days before the New Hampshire primary.

Third, skipping the first four contests has an obvious and compelling rationale. To flip a popular saying: You can’t lose it if you’re not in it. This is a variant of the successful strategy of American revolutionaries: They ran away to fight another day. Bloomberg will survive the first four contests. Every other candidate, except four at most, won’t.

There are virtually no delegates at stake in these early contests — just 4 percent of the total. The winner(s) of those contests will have virtually nothing to show for the enormous effort entailed, except bragging rights, which then must be defended in the next of the four contests to meet elevated expectations and to maintain momentum.

Bloomberg won’t have lost any meaningful ground, unless one candidate rolls the table, winning all four early contests. What are the odds of that? South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has surged into the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire, but is mired in single digits in the following contest in South Carolina, where former vice president Joe Biden holds a commanding 19-point lead.

If Bloomberg hasn’t lost anything, what has he gained by skipping the first four contests? Here it gets interesting.


Continue Reading:

The Senate should host the State of the Union

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has suggested delaying or scrapping the annual State of the Union address by the president of the United States to a joint session of Congress and that, instead of delivering the address in person, President Trump send a written report. Pelosi alleges security concerns and hasn’t filed a concurrent resolution to set Jan. 29 as the day for his speech.

Let’s call this The Pelosi Shutdown, or The Pelosi Snub, or The Pelosi Snub-down.

No matter how ludicrous Pelosi’s pretext… er, reason, Trump should agree immediately, and then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should step in with an invitation for Trump to deliver an address in the Senate chamber.

Brexit falters over a faux border problem

A no-confidence vote was called this week in the British Parliament; Prime Minister Theresa May

The backstop is a solution in search of a problem. It purports to preserve the open border between tiny Northern Ireland, the only non-contiguous part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, its land neighbor on the Emerald Isle.

In truth, the open border can preserve itself, because trade and immigration flows across it are miniscule. The trade amounts to a rounding error in Britain’s overall volume of trade, and so does immigration in relation to overall migration into Britain.

The new war profiteers

Nike and The New York Times are modern-day war profiteers. Nike’s new Colin Kaepernick marketing campaign is designed to stoke polarization — and coin money. Ditto The New York Times and its recent anti-Trump op-ed by "anonymous," the “high official” inside the Trump administration.

The irony is rich. Nike as provocateur and the Times as enabler of a self-confessed subversive at the heart of government are engaging in the very divisiveness of which they accuse President Trump.

Closing ranks around Brennan sends the wrong message

Another profession has closed ranks around a few bad actors. Despite the protestations of almost 200 former intelligence officials, common sense suggests that there was good reason to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance.

Trump’s foreign policy rooted in Nixon, Reagan principles

Few would think of Donald Trump’s foreign policy as Nixonian or Reaganesque, but it sounds like the president is playing their sheet music. In 1972, Nixon went to China to engineer the Sino-Soviet split, fracturing communist unity in classic divide-and-conquer diplomacy. In the 1980s, Reagan launched an arms race that the Soviet Union could not afford, leading to Soviet collapse and U.S. victory in the Cold War.

Sign Up For Weekly Alerts

There will be a new Featured Column every week to 10 days. Sign up to receive an email alert when it posts. In the meantime, please visit The Red Line to see a new Column of the Day every day.