Nero 2024

Even if Donald Trump signed the latest COVID-19 relief bill on Saturday, enhanced benefits for the jobless would lapse.

As The New York Times explained, after chatting with Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Project, “states will still need time to reprogram their computer systems to account for the new law” and because they can’t pay out benefits “for weeks that begin before the bill is signed,” failure to sign it Saturday would mean the earliest benefits could resume would be the first week of January.

That’s not the best news for America’s unemployed. Weekly jobless claims hit the highest since early September two weeks ago. Although the situation improved in the most recent data, the four-week moving average sits above 800,000, well beyond the pre-pandemic record set in 1982. At the same time, America remains ~10 million jobs short of levels seen prior to the health crisis.

The figure (above) captures the reality of the labor market from a 30,000-foot view. Momentum has waned. It will be an uphill battle from here to claw back the other half of the jobs lost to COVID.

On Saturday, Trump took to Twitter to malign both the relief legislation and the defense bill he vetoed on Wednesday. The push for larger stimulus checks is widely seen as an early campaign maneuver for 2024. The defense bill dispute is aimed at forcing Congress to repeal a legal shield for social media.

“I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” Trump said, accidentally adopting a kind of “the lady doth protest too much, methinks” cadence. On Christmas Day, Trump demanded that Congress “Give our people the money!”

“Our people” could use the money, that’s for sure. And Democrats were more than happy to push for the larger checks. But to put it as succinctly as possible, the Republican votes probably won’t be there, because it’s patently obvious that Trump is just spiting the GOP for not supporting his unfounded claims of election fraud. At the same time, he’s laying the groundwork for a 2024 run.

Even Democrats pushing for the larger checks urged Trump to go ahead and sign the relief legislation, which had to be flown to Mar-a-Lago on Christmas Eve, when hospitalizations hit 120,000 nationwide.

Absent his signature (or another Band-Aid bill) the government will shut down on Tuesday. Eviction moratoriums will expire at the end of the month. And states counting on billions in funding to assist with vaccine distribution will be left in the lurch.

Health officials generally expect virus cases to surge after the holidays, and one imagines it’s just a matter of time before the CDC confirms that the new, mutated variant of COVID is in the US. While there’s still no evidence to suggest it causes more severe illness, reports of enhanced transmissibility are bad news. Sweden, France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and Japan have all identified their first cases of the mutation.

As the Times went on to say in the linked piece above, “Treasury Department officials, expecting that the president would sign the bill this week, had been planning to work through the Christmas holiday period to restart the Paycheck Protection Program and to push payments through direct deposit by early next week [but] that all now sits in limbo.”

Even if Trump does sign the bill, it fails miserably on any number of fronts. For example, it doesn’t provide direct assistance for restaurants and bars, one of (if not the) hardest-hit sector of the economy.

“This bill falls woefully short of giving 11 million independent restaurant workers the job security they need before the holidays,” the Independent Restaurant Coalition said, in a statement, adding that “the small changes to PPP funding for independent restaurants will buy time for Congress to negotiate a more robust plan… but make no mistake: independent restaurants and bars will continue to close without additional relief this winter, leaving millions more out of work.”

As Bloomberg reminds you, “Democrats in the House passed the Restaurants Act earlier this year that would have provided $120 billion in direct funding, but the Republican-controlled Senate declined to take up the legislation.”

Earlier this month, the National Restaurant Association painted a grim picture in their latest restaurant impact survey. “The vast majority of restaurant operators do not expect business conditions to improve in the coming months,” the survey read. 75% of operators expected their revenue to keep falling over the next three months, while just 6% (!) said they expect sales to rise from current levels over the same period.

“As of December 1, at least 17% of all eating and drinking places — or more than 110,000 establishments — are not open for business in any capacity,” the survey went on to lament.

If you’re wondering whether those were businesses that, generally speaking, were fly-by-nights, the answer is “no.” “On average, permanently closed restaurants had been in business for 16 years,” the same survey said. “16% of these shuttered restaurants had been open for at least 30 years.”

To say there’s still quite a bit of work to do to shore up the world’s largest economy would be an understatement.

On Saturday, Trump dedicated what seemed like quite a bit of time to election grievances. The president, tweeting from Florida, called the Supreme Court “totally incompetent and weak” and claimed that an unnamed “young military man working in Afghanistan” told him that elections in the war-torn country “are far more secure and much better run” than the 2020 election in the US.

Trump then suggested this year’s election made America look like “a third world country.” He was right. Just not in the way he meant to be.

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5 thoughts on “Nero 2024

  1. Strange Trump called the Supreme Court incompetent and weak. He appointed a third of them, gleefully. Too bad he probably won’t live long enough to understand how our government actually operates.

  2. Scholars of US presidents should easily pin the Trump administration into the fourth quartile (where the first quartile includes the most highly regarded administrations).

    The question then is where does Trump fall in this fourth quartile. He lost the popular vote twice, was impeached, served only one term, a term filled with scandal, as evidenced by the over 200 indictments, and abandoned his duties during both a pandemic and a catastrophic economic crisis.

    I was just reading a Bloomberg article from April 2020. The author of that article brings up the point that we are witnessing an example of the Confederacy reigning in the Executive branch. The author didn’t say this, but I will…maybe there is a second Confederacy reigning, the other being that of the Dunces.

      1. None. The base is overjoyed with Trump

        Though… someone was predicting that we would start to move away from polarisation in 2021… that centrism would again reign supreme as people got fed up with extremism on either/both sides (as if they were comparable but i guess it’s fair to assume that the average moron on the streets does not indeed distinguish between parties)

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