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Friday, May 29, 2020

Reporters at Risk

Mark Joyella at Forbes:
Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather called the arrest Friday of a CNN crew covering protests—and police response—a “mark of tyranny” and said the action by State Patrol officers demands a “complete investigation and repercussions.”
CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, who is black and Hispanic, and his crew were arrested on a public street while delivering a live report on protests over the death of George Floyd. CNN notes that while Jimenez was put in handcuffs and taken away, another CNN reporter, Josh Campbell—who is white—was working nearby and police left him alone.


At the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, Rather had an on-air run-in of his own.

Pandemic Gaps

At Axios, Drew Altman describes a KFF survey:
By the numbers: Almost a third (31%) of the American people say they’ve experienced problems paying the rent or mortgage, or for food, utilities, credit card bills or medical costs as a result of the coronavirus.
  • Among African-Americans, that number climbs to 48%. Among Latinos, it’s 46%.
  • And 47% of households with an annual income below $40,000 say they’ve had trouble paying their bills because of the pandemic.
  • 45% of black adults and 39% of Latinos say they’ve either skipped meals or relied on charity or government food programs such as SNAP since February — compared with just 18% of white adults. Most of those people said their experiences were a direct result of the coronavirusfinancial impact.
 Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape survey:


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Pandemic Casualty: Social Security

Social Security will go bust much sooner than officials previously reckoned.  Caitlin Emma at Politico:
There's now an acceleration of what happened during the Great Recession a decade ago, when there was a 5 percent bump in eligible adults claiming Social Security an average of six months early. At the same time, soaring unemployment meant the government was collecting less in payroll taxes. The Obama administration estimated at the time that the fund would run out of money in 2037 — four years faster than expected before the financial crisis.
Today, the unemployment rate has already blown past the 10 percent peak logged during that recession, to 14.7 percent as of mid-April, according to data released this month. And some economists think it could climb as high as 20 percent. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 Americans still won’t have a job well into next year.
At least 36.5 million people aren’t paying payroll taxes into the program right now, and a second surge in early retirements is expected. Social Security benefits can be collected at the age of 62, though there is a penalty for not waiting until full retirement age.
Without accounting for the pandemic and the ensuing financial downturn, the federal government estimated last month that the program can fully issue benefits until 2035. At that point, only 76 percent of benefits can be paid out.
“It’s clearly going to be a lot worse than that,” said Alan Auerbach, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Brent Orrell at AEI:
A recent working paper from the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute finds that the unemployment rate has not risen to levels that would correspond with the numbers of jobs lost. Through surveys conducted earlier in 2020 and again at the height of the pandemic, they found that some of those who lost jobs have not been counted in the BLS unemployment rate because these workers have dropped out of the labor force. Furthermore, a striking percentage of these former workers cited retirement as their reason for not seeking additional work, rising from 53 percent in the first survey to 60 percent in the follow-on survey. The authors believe that these retirements are likely earlier than originally planned, given the age range of the participants.
A unique feature of the current recession is that health officials have been warning the public for months that older people, and especially those living with underlying health conditions, are more at risk of developing more serious forms of the disease than their younger, healthier counterparts. Anxiety about the disease and lower rates of telecommuting might be combining to encourage more early retirement.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

More Coronavirus Lobbying

Maggie Severns and Rachel Roubein at Politico:
The nursing home industry is one of the lobbying world’s quiet powerhouses. The state actions to protect the industry came after it spent tens of millions of dollars in lobbying and other advocacy per year, according to a POLITICO review of state and federal records. At the federal level, the industry has spent more than $4 million on lobbying over the past year, employing more than a dozen full-time lobbyists and drawing on an army of contractors including Brian Ballard, former lobbyist for President Donald Trump, and ex-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman.
In early April, nursing home giant Life Care Centers of America — the multi-state chain whose facility in Kirkland, Washington, was the nation’s first epicenter of coronavirus — hired a team of four former aides to ex-Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was close with Senate leadership, to lobby on Covid-19 issues.
Industry advocates, including the American Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, argue it would be disastrous for care facilities to be held liable for the deaths of elderly residents, who are far more vulnerable to coronavirus than the rest of the population. They also contend nursing homes have been forced to fight the virus while facing shortages of critical protective gear and testing capabilities because of flawed federal policies over which they have no control. They are also adapting to new federal regulations on the fly.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Misunderstanding Memorial Day

SWNS reports:
Less than half of Americans know the true meaning behind Memorial Day, according to a new survey.
The survey of 2,000 Americans revealed just 43% were aware it’s a holiday honoring those who died in service while in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Twenty-eight percent mistakenly believed Memorial Day was a holiday honoring all military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces — which is actually Veterans Day.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

How to Lie with Statistics -- COVID Edition

Neil Irwin at NYT:
Did you hear about the booming air travel industry? It’s up 123 percent in just the last month!
Technically, that’s an accurate number. Over the seven days ended Sunday, an average of 212,580 people went through U.S. airport security checkpoints, up from 95,161 in the week ended April 17.

But of course, that is all wrong if you know anything about the underlying reality of the air travel industry. This time a year ago, 2.4 million people a day went through those same checkpoints. By any reasonable measure, these remain disastrous times for air traffic. It’s just that the shutdown in March and early April made even the slight recovery that has taken place seem like an enormous surge in percentage terms.

Get ready for the same effect to apply to all sorts of numbers — most notably with economic data. These swings are artifacts of the arithmetic of percentage change. But if you aren’t attuned to the yo-yo effect that we are likely to see in crucial data in the coming months, you could get a misleading impression of where the United States stands.
When something falls by 10 percent and then rises by 10 percent, it might seem as if it ends up back where it started. But that’s not how the math works.

A 10 percent drop from 100 to 90, followed by a 10 percent gain, would return it only to 99. With bigger swings, those effects become more striking. A 40 percent drop followed by a 40 percent gain would result in a quantity 16 percent below the starting point.

At even greater extremes, you end up with bonkers numbers like those in the air traffic example, in which a 96 percent drop followed by a 123 percent gain leaves you with a number that is still 91 percent below normal.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Americans Give Higher COVID-19 Marks to Germany and South Korea than to USA

From Pew:
With stunning speed, the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across borders, claiming victims and shutting down economies in nations across the globe. The crisis has generated a variety of policy responses from governments, with varying degrees of success. When asked how well different countries have responded to the outbreak, Americans give high marks to South Korea and Germany. In contrast, most believe China – where the pandemic is believed to have originated – has done an only fair or poor job.
Most are also critical of Italy’s response, while the public is divided over how well the United Kingdom has dealt with COVID-19. Regarding their own country’s reaction, Americans are divided along partisan lines. Overall, 47% of adults say the United States has done a good or excellent job of handling the outbreak, but just 27% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents hold that view, compared with 71% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
Americans largely agree the U.S. should look beyond its borders for ideas to combat the coronavirus. Nearly half (46%) say the U.S. can learn a great deal from other countries about ways to slow the spread of the virus, while another 38% say it can learn a fair amount. Few say there is not too much (13%) or nothing at all (3%) the U.S. can learn from other countries.