The US elections are in a bizarre and unsettling phase with President Donald Trump governing by tweets, spraying assaults on the medical profession and continuing to maintain the US has the Covid-19 pandemic under control.
Really? No, as state after state (with the notable exclusion of New York) takes a battering. Even Florida – run by his pal, Governor Ron DeSantis. who has refused to take hard lock-down, mask-wearing measures – is logging record infections and, sadly, deaths.
The Washington Post says the White House has been trying to undermine Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases over his pronouncements on the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci has become a national figure on the nightly TV news programmes with his cautious, measured statements.
Public health experts, scientists and mainly Democratic politicians have rallied around, arguing it is dangerous to disparage a highly respected government infectious-disease expert as the coronavirus continues to exact a heavy toll on the nation.
The White House gave the WP examples of what it characterised as mistakes that Fauci had made about the pandemic, mostly in the early days when information about the virus was extremely limited. The White House also made the information available to other reporters, some of whom described it as “opposition research.”
Critics of the White House noted that some of the Fauci statements cited by the White House were taken out of context, or were incomplete. He said repeatedly, especially in the early days of the outbreak, scientists lacked sufficient information about the virus to be definitive in their statements. Recommendations might change as new information emerged.
The Republicans are scheduled to hold their convention next month in Jacksonville, Florida. Trump is determined it should proceed and nervous planners are trying to devise outdoor gatherings to lower the infection risk.
The Democrats canned their convention and will have a virtual, zoom-in programme instead.
In what’s best described as grotesque, Trump proudly announced he had had not only had a cognitive test at a US military hospital but the doctors were amazed at how well he had done. This raises the question why he had a test in the first place.
Journalists discovered that one test involved placing outlines of familiar objects – for example animals – into cut outs. One commentator noted acerbically that at least he could recognise a camel.
Now Trump is demanding schools re-open after the summer break, despite reservations by the Centre for Disease Control and the country’s school teachers. Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t comply. Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would amend its policy – but no, the CDC has declined.
Increasingly Democrat presidential contender Joe Biden is widening his lead over Trump, even in solid Republican states like Texas. Biden needs a solid voter turnout in November and now the Republican campaign machine is gearing up to try and stem the flow.
There are reports of fake websites being constructed to lure the unsuspecting to use the site to vote on line, supposedly because of risk of coronavirus infection at polling places. Trump has already weighed in on the “risks” associated with postal voting. It is so liable to fraud, he says.
Never mind that he will vote by mail at his new residential address, his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, having re-located from New York.
A real threat for Trump is the US economy, which continues to take a battering. The US budget deficit reached $US3 trillion in the 12 months to June as stimulus spending soared and tax revenue slumped. Now it seems the Federal government will record the largest annual deficit as a share of the economy since World War II.
The 12-month deficit reached 14% of GDP last month, compared with 10.1% in February 2010, when the US was still recovering from the last recession. According to the Treasury Department, the deficit widened in June to a monthly record of $US864 billion, almost as much as the gap for the entire previous fiscal year, of $984 billion.
The Congressional Budget Office thinks the annual deficit could total $US3.7 trillion in the fiscal year ending September 30. If Congress and the White House agree later this month on another round of emergency spending to keep households and businesses afloat until the economy begins to recover, the gap could widen even further.
Congress approved $US3.3 trillion in new spending since March to help combat the impact of coronavirus shutdowns, including stimulus cheques to American households and emergency loans and grants to struggling businesses and state and local governments. The Administration has also delayed personal and corporate income-tax payments until July 15.