April 5, 2020 – Most-Viewed Bills | Congress.gov

April 5, 2020

1. S.3548 [116th] CARES Act
2. H.R.748 [116th] CARES Act
3. H.R.6201 [116th] Families First Coronavirus Response Act
4. H.R.5717 [116th] Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020
5. S.893 [116th] Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020
6. H.R.6074 [116th] Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020
7. H.R.5383 [116th] New Way Forward Act
8. H.R.1380 [116th] Big Cat Public Safety Act
9. S.3398 [116th] EARN IT Act of 2020
10. H.R.2881 [116th] Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020

Source: Most-Viewed Bills – Congress.gov Resources – Congress.gov Resources

Michael Lewis explains why Trump ignores threats like coronavirus | Vox


Trump has created a bizarre absence of information channels from people who know things to the Oval Office. Just look at the coronavirus. People were trying to tell him this was a problem in early January. And on the rare occasions anybody who knows something gets through to him, he doesn’t want to hear it. That’s his temperament. He doesn’t want you to give him the bad news. And if you give him the bad news, you’re fired.

That’s exactly the opposite of the temperament you want in somebody who’s managing risk. People are already reluctant to give you bad news or bad information or tell you about risky situations because it’s an inherently unpleasant thing to do. If you disincentivize them even further, you’re just not going to find out what you need to know.

But there’s a third aspect to him that I find is almost the key to everything. So far, we’ve been talking about Trump as if he cares about risk and he wants to manage it well. I don’t think that’s true.

I think that his whole life is about doing whatever his impulses tell him to do. And then, after the fact, telling a story that renders him the hero of the story — the person who saved the day. He’s always done this, no matter the facts.

Source: Michael Lewis explains why Trump ignores threats like coronavirus – Vox

Wobbly U.S. fiscal response could deepen coronavirus recession | Reuters


The U.S. government’s massive effort to nurse the economy through the coronavirus crisis was billed as a send-money-and-don’t-sweat-the-details flood of cash to people and businesses in a $22 trillion system that has ground to a halt.

So far, the checks are not in the mail.

From technological glitches to confusion over the fine points of policy, the delays are mounting. The federal government’s muddled response risks deepening and lengthening a recession already historic for the speed of its onset.

Source: Wobbly U.S. fiscal response could deepen coronavirus recession – Reuters

Breaking Up Big Tech Would Be Good for U.S. National Security


When executives at the biggest U.S. technology companies are confronted with the argument that they have grown too powerful and should be broken up, they have a ready response: breaking up Big Tech would open the way for Chinese dominance and thereby undermine U.S. national security. In a new era of great-power competition, the argument goes, the United States cannot afford to undercut superstar companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet (the parent company of Google). Big as these companies are, constraints on them would simply allow Chinese behemoths to gain an edge, and the United States would stand no chance of winning the global artificial intelligence (AI) arms race. That technology executives would proffer these arguments is not surprising, but the position is gaining traction outside Silicon Valley; even Democratic politicians who have been critical of Big Tech, such as Representative Ro Khanna of California and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, have expressed concerns along these lines.

But the national security case against breaking up Big Tech is not just weak; it is backward. Far from competing with China, many big technology companies are operating in the country, and their growing entanglements there create vulnerabilities for the United States by exposing its firms to espionage and economic coercion. At home, market concentration in the technology sector also means less competition and therefore less innovation, which threatens to leave the United States in a worse position to compete with foreign rivals. Rather than threatening to undermine national security, breaking up and regulating Big Tech is necessary to protect the United States’ democratic freedoms and preserve its ability to compete with and defend against new great-power rivals.

Competition with China will define U.S. national security conversations for decades to come, and Americans need to think carefully about the role technology will play in this increasingly competitive environment. But to claim that the likes of Amazon and Google are helping counter China’s technological and geopolitical rise simply because they are American companies makes little sense.

Almost all big U.S. technology companies have extensive operations in China today. Google announced plans for an AI research center in Beijing in 2017 and is exploring a partnership with the Chinese Internet behemoth Tencent. Microsoft is expanding its data centers in China and has recently built an entire operating system, Windows 10 China Government Edition, for the Chinese government. Amazon’s cloud service in China is second in popularity only to that of its Chinese counterpart, Alibaba. Apple famously designs its phones in California but manufactures them in China. Facebook, notably, does not operate in China—but not for lack of trying. The company repeatedly attempted to gain access to the Chinese market only to be blocked by Chinese government officials.

Merely operating in China may seem harmless. Yet according to scholars, U.S. government officials, and even American business associations, any U.S. technology company working in China could very well be supporting the Chinese state and the expansion of digital authoritarianism. In the course of their operations in the country, U.S. companies routinely interact with Chinese companies, some of which are run or partly owned by the state. Those that are not still have informal ties to state and Communist Party officials and face strong incentives to behave as the state wishes even without direct pressure from the government.

Because the Chinese market and the state are intertwined in this way, Chinese companies that partner with foreign ones are highly likely to pass along operational and technological developments to the Chinese government and military, including in ways that could advance Beijing’s emerging surveillance state and accelerate its ability to spread its model of digital authoritarianism around the world.

These challenges are particularly clear in the case of AI, as commercial innovations in that field can also have military implications. Under Beijing’s doctrine of “civil-military fusion,” Chinese researchers and private companies are working ever more closely with the government and the military, which means that technological innovations that may have originated with a foreign company active in China can find their way to supporting the People’s Liberation Army. “If you’re working in China,” Ashton Carter, a former U.S. defense secretary, has said, “you don’t know whether you’re working on a project for the military or not.”

In addition to widely known concerns about Chinese espionage and surveillance, integration with the Chinese market also opens Big Tech—and the United States—to pressure from China, which can use that influence to hurt U.S. interests. Scholars refer to this tactic—turning economic interdependence into political leverage—by a variety of terms, including “geoeconomics,” “reverse entanglement,” and “weaponized interdependence.” Whatever it’s called, China has a long track record of doing it, across countries and industries. To retaliate against South Korea’s adoption of a U.S. missile defense system in 2017, China blocked Chinese travel agencies from offering trips to the country. And after the dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, China temporarily blocked imports from Norway.

To avoid offending Chinese officials and potentially losing access to the country’s large market, companies are adapting their behavior even outside China’s borders. Hollywood studios have been accused of rewriting scripts and editing scenes for that purpose: choosing to blow up the Taj Mahal instead of the Great Wall of China in the movie Pixels, according to Reuters, and replacing China with North Korea as the main adversary in the 2012 remake of Red Dawn, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2019, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the NBA basketball team the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong; soon thereafter, he deleted the post. In the days that followed, the owner of the Rockets wrote that Morey did “NOT speak” for the team, and the NBA said it was “regrettable” that Morey’s views had “deeply offended many of our friends in China.” (After a public outcry, the NBA clarified that it would not censor or fire Morey.) A year earlier, Mercedes-Benz had posted a quote from the Dalai Lama on Instagram. After an online backlash in China, the automaker quickly erased the quote, and its parent company, Daimler, said that the post had contained an “erroneous message” and had “hurt the feelings of people” in China. The People’s Daily, China’s largest newspaper, later branded Mercedes-Benz as an “enemy of the people.”

Such conduct by Western companies illustrates a broader point: they act based on their commercial interests, not in the name of abstract democratic principles or for the cause of U.S. national security. The same is true when these companies try to influence government policy. The potential stakes are high. The U.S. Department of Commerce, for instance, has the power to set export restrictions on some sensitive technologies, including AI; those restrictions may be important from a national security standpoint, even if they negatively affect some companies’ bottom lines. Yet the dominant ideology among corporate lawyers today holds that the sole aim of managers is to maximize shareholder profits, and corporate lobbyists are thus likely to advocate public policies that support those profits even if they run counter to U.S. national interests.

Practically all U.S. companies active in China are subject to such pressures to one degree or another, and how to address that predicament is another question altogether. But the size and dominance of American technology companies are part of the problem. As the U.S. technology sector becomes more concentrated and the few players in it become more dependent on the Chinese market for consumers and profits, these firms—and, by extension, the United States—become more vulnerable to pressure from Beijing.

Antimonopoly policies could help remedy this problem: in a fractured market with many players, the sheer number of firms would all but guarantee that some would build supply chains that circumvented China, or build their products wholly in the United States, or simply choose not to engage in the Chinese market—whether because of idiosyncratic preferences, competitive dynamics, product differentiation, higher costs, or other factors.

Consider another industry whose structure resembles that of Big Tech: Hollywood. Like the technology industry, today’s entertainment sector consists of a handful of studios that are increasingly dominant at the box office and able to pressure theaters to give their content preferential treatment. If these big, integrated companies comply with Chinese censors out of a concern for market access, then U.S. consumers will not see content that offends the Chinese government.

By contrast, in a system with a large number of small studios and competitive distribution channels, many companies would lack the size, scope, or desire to cater to the Chinese market, let alone be dependent on it. Nor would they have the power or scale to lock out new competitors through vertical integration. The result would be a market in which Americans had a range of content choices, including entertainment that might not accord with the views of foreign censors.

Of course, in theory, it is possible that a small number of big U.S. technology firms, each with monopoly-like power, might be so profitable as to have no need for the Chinese market, whereas small companies with razor-thin profit margins might depend more on that market for consumers and profits. But this hypothesis has not been borne out. The current technology sector is already highly concentrated, and yet today’s technology companies are not forsaking the Chinese market; instead, they are desperate to expand their business there.

As they do so, they will likely be subject to the same pressures bearing down on Hollywood, the NBA, Mercedes, and other entities that want to operate in China. Companies such as Amazon and Google, which both produce their own content and distribute it through their platforms, may over time be tempted to make that content palatable to Chinese censors. And because those firms have immense market power within the United States, American consumers will be left with no serious, scalable alternatives.

A more competitive technology sector, with many smaller players, would also mitigate the ill effects of lobbying, for much the same reasons. Fewer companies would be dependent on the Chinese market, and those that were would be differentiated enough to often end up on different sides of policy debates. Their lobbying efforts would be less likely to cut in a single direction and thus less likely to capture government.

Big Tech’s market dominance, some will argue, has benefits: free of constant worries about vicious competition, technology giants can focus on the big questions. They have the time and resources to invest copiously in cutting-edge research, where success is rare but the potential payoff—for technological innovation and thus for U.S. competitiveness and national security—is massive.

Whether or not they say it explicitly, those who want to protect Big Tech from antitrust laws and other regulations are advocating a “national champions” model—a system in which the state shields a few select big companies from competition, allowing them to spend on research and development. But there is strong evidence that this approach is imperfect, at times even counterproductive. As the legal scholar Tim Wu has noted, it is usually competition, not consolidation, that fosters innovation. Competitors have to find ways to differentiate themselves in order to survive and expand. Large, protected firms become lethargic, are slow to innovate, and rest on their laurels.

Recall the race for supremacy in the electronics industry that played out between the United States and Japan in the 1980s. Japan, according to Wu, chose to protect its national champions, giving direct government support to such powerhouses as NEC, Panasonic, and Toshiba. The United States took the opposite tack. Its largest electronics firm at the time, IBM, came under antitrust scrutiny by U.S. authorities, and the ensuing decade-long legal battle discouraged the company from engaging in conduct that might run afoul of antitrust laws. That created the space for a variety of other hardware and software companies, among them Apple, Lotus, and Microsoft, to flourish. Competition led to innovation and the creation of some of the most forward-looking companies of the era.

National champions also have an incentive to hide breakthroughs that might undermine their market power. Bell Labs, one of the pillars of AT&T’s telecommunications empire, has long been celebrated for its role as an “ideas factory.” But Bell Labs and AT&T also suppressed innovations that threatened their business model. Starting in the 1930s, for example, AT&T’s management sat on recording inventions that could have been used for answering machines, for fear this innovation might jeopardize the use of the telephone.

Skeptics might argue that this time is different—that today’s next-generation technologies are so resource-intensive that smaller companies in a competitive environment couldn’t afford the necessary investments. But even if broken up and regulated, Big Tech’s main players would have considerable money left to spend on AI, robotics, quantum computing, and other next-generation technologies. Facebook would still have billions of users without Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon’s platform would still have enormous market power in online sales even if it wasn’t allowed to produce its own products.

Whatever resource constraints did arise could be offset by greater public investment in R & D. As the economist Mariana Mazzucato has argued, such government spending has historically been a significant driver of innovation; the Internet, for example, began as a U.S. Defense Department network. There is no reason the government could not play the same role today.

Unlike research by national-champion firms, research funded by public investment would not be tied to the profit motive. It could therefore cover a wider range of subjects, extend to basic research that does not have immediate or foreseeable commercial applications, and include research that might challenge the incumbency and business models of existing companies. Public research could also de-emphasize areas of inquiry that may be profitable but are socially undesirable. For many of the biggest technology companies, surveillance, personalized targeting, and the eliciting of particular behavioral responses lie at the heart of their business models, which means that their efforts to innovate are geared in no trivial way toward improving those tactics. An authoritarian country may see those as valuable public goals, but it is not at all clear why a free and democratic society should.

Public investment in R & D also has the potential to spread the benefits of technology, innovation, and industry throughout the United States. At present, much of the country’s technological and innovative prowess is concentrated in a few hubs—the most prominent being Northern California, Seattle, and Boston. This is not surprising, as unlike the government, technology companies have no reason to want to spread development evenly. Amazon’s competition to decide the location of its second headquarters is a good example. After inviting countless pitches from cities across the country and much public attention, the company settled on New York and Washington, D.C.—two cities that hardly need an economic boost. Public investment, as the economists Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson have argued, could remedy these geographic imbalances and spur successful economies in dozens of midsize cities all over the country, with spillover benefits for their regions.

Mountains of data are needed to improve AI’s precision and accuracy, and some might think that only Big Tech can collect and handle data in such vast quantities. But this need not be the case, either. The United States could create a public data commons with data collected from a variety of government sources (and regulate it with strict rules about personal privacy), for use by businesses, local governments, and nonprofits to train machines. Any new data would be fed back into the data commons, allowing the quality and quantity of the information to improve over time.

Alternatively, the government could require technology companies to make their data available in interoperable formats. If those companies effectively have monopoly power over data, then they could be regulated as monopolies—with public access to the data sets as a condition for their continued protection as monopolies. No legal obstacles stand in the way of these options, and both would enable innovation and expand the number of players working on important technological developments.

For the moment, such public initiatives exist only as proposals. Big technology companies have considerable market power, and the U.S. government increasingly relies on their services, including to run its national security apparatus. Technology is, of course, a crucial aspect of warfare, and firms such as Amazon and Microsoft have contracts to provide cloud services to U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. These technology companies are fast becoming part of the United States’ defense industrial base—the collection of industries that are indispensable for U.S. military equipment. As they do so, the curse of monopoly capitalism that already affects the country’s overconsolidated defense sector—causing higher costs, lower quality, reduced innovation, and even corruption and fraud—will likely grow worse.

To see the challenge ahead, consider the present state of the U.S. weapons industry, which is already remarkably uncompetitive. In 2019, the Government Accountability Office found that 67 percent of 183 contracts for major weapons systems did not have a competitive bidding process. Almost half the contracts went to one of five companies—a stunning testament to the dominance of a handful of firms. And in 2018, the Defense Department released a report on the military’s supply chain that listed numerous items for which only one or two domestic companies (and in some cases none) produced the essential goods. Perhaps most striking of all, the report found that the United States no longer had the capacity to build submarines on a rapid timetable because of single suppliers and declining competition.

Unsurprisingly, as Frank Kendall, a former head of acquisitions at the Pentagon, has pointed out, large defense contractors “are not hesitant to use this power for corporate advantage.” In a recent article in The American Conservative, the researchers Matt Stoller and Lucas Kunce argue that contractors with de facto monopoly at the heart of their business models threaten national security. They write that one such contractor, TransDigm Group, buys up companies that supply the government with rare but essential airplane parts and then hikes up the prices, effectively holding the government “hostage.”

They also point to L3 Technologies, a defense contractor with ambitions, in the words of its one-time CEO, to become “the Home Depot of the defense industry.” According to Stoller and Kunce, L3’s de facto monopoly over certain products means that it continues to receive lucrative government contracts even after it admitted in the settlement of a 2015 civil fraud lawsuit that it had knowingly supplied defective weapons sights to U.S. forces.

As technology becomes more integral to the future of U.S. national security, Big Tech’s market power will likely lead to much the same problems. Technology behemoths will amass defense contracts, and the Pentagon will be locked into a state of dependence, just as it is currently with large defense contractors. Instead of healthy innovation, the government will have created what Michael Chertoff, a former homeland security secretary, has called a “technological monoculture,” which is unwieldy and vulnerable to outside attack. The cost to taxpayers will increase, whether due to higher prices or fraud and corruption, and much of their money—funding that could have been available for innovation—will become monopoly profits for technology executives and shareholders.

That technology companies do not want to be broken up is unsurprising. They are profitable, growing, and powerful. Nor is it a mystery why they try to play the trump card of invoking national security in their defense. But even from the viewpoint of national security, the case for shielding Big Tech from competition is weak. Technology companies are not competing with China so much as integrating with it, at significant risk to U.S. interests. In the United States, competition and public investment in R & D, not today’s consolidated technology sector, will provide the best path forward to innovation.

Policymakers should embrace proposals to break up and regulate big technology companies: to unwind mergers and acquisitions such as Facebook’s decision to buy the social networking and messaging services Instagram and WhatsApp. They should require technology platforms such as Amazon to separate from businesses that operate on their platforms. They should apply nondiscrimination principles drawn from public utilities and common carrier laws to digital platforms. And they should adopt stringent privacy regulations.

In this era of great-power competition, the best way to remain competitive and innovative is through market competition, smart regulations, and public spending on R & D. Breaking up Big Tech won’t threaten national security; it will bolster it.

Source: Breaking Up Big Tech Would Be Good for U.S. National Security

Trump Removes Acting Pentagon IG Slated to Lead Pandemic Oversight | Government Executive


President Trump has removed the acting Pentagon inspector general from his position, thus stripping him of his ability to lead the committee overseeing the government’s pandemic response.

On Monday, the White House ousted Glenn Fine from the Defense Department’s acting IG position, instead designating the Environmental Protection Agency inspector general to serve in that role, Politico reported on Tuesday.

Last week, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency tapped Fine to chair the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, an oversight body created by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act to ensure taxpayer money is spent wisely. The law empowered CIGIE to name the committee chair, but stipulates that only current IGs can hold the position, so Trump’s removal of Fine from his acting position prevents the well-regarded watchdog from leading the oversight committee.

Source: Trump Removes Acting Pentagon IG Slated to Lead Pandemic Oversight – Government Executive

With Focus on Coronavirus, Trump Goes After Watchdogs | Time


As the American public remains gripped by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump has stepped up a series of audacious moves against a pillar of government oversight, the inspectors general of the United States government, which serve as independent watchdogs to root out abuse of power, fraud and other bad behavior by federal officials.

The President’s moves to push out and belittle the inspectors, made as Washington prepares to shovel out the door trillions of dollars in aid to Americans and businesses, have raised concerns Trump is trying to place loyalists in key oversight positions and dismantle the post-Watergate reforms designed to prevent executive overreach.

Source: With Focus on Coronavirus, Trump Goes After Watchdogs | Time

The U.S. Economy Is Uniquely Vulnerable to the Coronavirus


Two competing epidemiological models currently guide and divide expert opinion on how best to respond to the novel coronavirus. The first, from Imperial College London, scared the U.S. and British governments into instituting strict social-distancing measures. It predicted that if left unchecked, COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, could kill over half a million people in the United Kingdom and 2.2 million in the United States—not counting the many additional deaths caused by the collapse of each country’s health-care system. The second model, developed by researchers at Oxford University, suggested that the virus had already infected as much as 40 percent of the British population but that most had shown mild or no symptoms. According to this model, COVID-19 would still cause many deaths, and it would still severely stress health-care systems. But because it predicted fewer critical cases to come, the Oxford model suggested that an indefinite lockdown might not be necessary.

The attractions of the Oxford model are obvious. But if political leaders plan based on the Oxford model and turn out to be living in a world described by the Imperial College London model, they will have made a bad situation much, much worse.

Similarly, high-stakes decisions must be made about how to protect national economies from the effects of COVID-19—decisions that can be predicted with another kind of model. Political economists use “growth models” to describe what countries do to promote growth under normal circumstances, but these models also indicate how countries are likely to respond in the event of a crisis, such as a deadly pandemic. The United Kingdom’s basic growth model, for example, is driven by finance, housing, and, above all, domestic consumption. When the British economy got walloped by the coronavirus crisis and everyone was told to stay home, taking measures to boost consumption—such as guaranteeing 80 percent of wages—was the necessary response.

By contrast, in Germany, which is essentially a giant export platform sucking in demand from elsewhere, the necessary response included instituting a shorter workweek and guaranteeing company balance sheets, but not supporting wages.

For the United States, the question of how best to shield the economy from the effects of the pandemic is more complicated. In growth model terms, the United States is a massive exporter of primary products, aircraft, weapons, oil, services, software, e-commerce, and finance—simply because its economy represents a quarter of global GDP. But most of what drives the U.S. economy is still domestic consumption, and while that isn’t as credit-driven or debt dependent as some analysts have claimed—the United States lies in the middle of the pack of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries in terms of the ratio of household debt to household income—the role that private-sector debt plays in the U.S. economy makes it difficult to respond to a crisis like this one. This reality is thrown into sharp relief when contrasting the U.S. growth model with those of other countries.

Trade-dependent growth models, such as those found in northern and western Europe, tend to have large welfare states that act as “shock absorbers,” helping to mitigate the effects of economic shocks. In general, the more open a European country’s economy is to international trade, the bigger the welfare state it constructs to act as a buffer in case trade shuts off. Large welfare states also allow their citizens to carry large amounts of debt, since they effectively insure them against periods of unemployment; the most indebted people in the world are not Americans but the Danes and the Dutch.

In contrast, countries with growth models of the Anglo-American variety, especially the United States, tend to have weaker states, lower taxes, and large financial sectors. They have highly flexible labor markets rather than large welfare states, which means they ultimately depend on wages to drive growth. Since those wages have been buying less and less over time, credit cards, student loans, and medical debts have become a standard part of U.S. household budgeting. When those household budgets shrink sharply, their debts are not compensated by the shock absorbers that countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany have in place.

This lack of shock absorbers is integral to the U.S. growth model, and under normal circumstances, it is a feature, not a bug. When systems such as the American one are hit by shocks, they tend to bail out their financial systems to keep credit flowing and let the real economy absorb the blow through unemployment and austerity policies. The assumption is that with no shock absorbers in place, prices and wages will adjust quickly, capital will be redeployed, and growth will return without the need for state intervention. But these are not normal circumstances. And as U.S. policymakers are quickly realizing, the usual playbook is of limited use in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

During a global economic crisis, the United States has one major advantage over other countries: it prints the global reserve currency. Other countries need U.S. dollars because their banking systems lend in dollars even though they can’t print them. During previous crises such as the 2008 financial crisis, sharp falls in global financial markets have been put right by Federal Reserve actions such as rate cuts and bond-buying programs. But this time, Federal Reserve action has not had its usual calming effect: financial markets have continued to fall, and the dollar’s dominance has failed to prevent a flight into cash. Although Congress finally passed a $2 trillion economic stabilization package, its continuing inability to agree on whom to bail out—companies or consumers—reflects tensions in the underlying growth model. The United States typically opts to protect capital and to simply let labor adjust through unemployment. But this instinct—to protect the big players and let workers take the hit—is also a key reason why the coronavirus pandemic is a disaster amplifier for the U.S. growth model in a way that is not true for Germany or even the United Kingdom.

The U.S. growth model works well as long as there is little unemployment, wages are being earned and spent, and credit is being recycled to cover the difference between wages and costs by consumers and companies. But when markets freeze and cannot price assets correctly (no one knows how much United Airlines stock is worth because they don’t know when Americans will be flying again), the growth model collapses. Once that happens, it is hard to find a bottom. The Federal Reserve and Congress can try to put a floor on asset prices by bailing out companies, but there is no bottom for the broader crisis of consumption that occurs when a third of the labor market is laid off and the other two-thirds are locked at home for an extended period of time. In this world, bailing out capital and expecting labor to adjust through wage cuts and unemployment is simply impossible given the scale of the shutdown.

The U.S. growth model is built in such a way that it simply cannot shut down without inflicting catastrophic damage on itself. Because the model is designed to adjust through reduced wages and employment rather than increased welfare outlays, political leaders can contemplate temporary unemployment benefits for a banking-induced shock, but not semipermanent cash transfers—which is what the British are doing—and a near-total collapse in asset values. The British solution is too politically toxic to be anything other than a short-term expedient in the American context. So, once it became clear that—at least according to the Imperial College London model—the epidemiologically correct response was to put the economy in hibernation for several months, U.S. leaders started looking for other solutions.

One alternative solution, put forth by U.S. President Donald Trump but with proponents in many states, is to simply “restart the economy.” The direct cost of doing so, according to the Imperial College London model, could be the deaths of as many as 2.2 million Americans—or, as Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick bluntly suggested in a recent interview, old people need to die to save the economy.

Unfortunately, even if Americans turn out to be living in the world described by the less dire Oxford model, simply restarting the economy may not be feasible if that means up to 70 percent of Americans will catch a disease that requires intensive care in over ten percent of cases. If Americans return to work, these infection rates would effectively shut down labor markets whether the president likes it or not. Consumers are unlikely to flock to malls when they could literally “shop till they drop,” and businesses whose employees are crowding emergency rooms are unlikely to invest in products they would be unable to ship.

The United States, with its 330 million people, 270 million handguns, 80 million hourly workers with no statutory sick pay, and 28 million medically uninsured, faces challenges quite unlike those in other countries. Putting the economy in a freezer for six months or longer would destroy what’s left of its social fabric along with its growth model. But restarting it could turn the pandemic into a plague that could cause as much damage as the freezer.

Which of these unappealing paths is the United States most likely to take? Again, examining its underlying growth model is revealing. It suggests that the United States will temporarily bail out companies, partially support consumption, and abandon the lockdown as soon as it can. Trump and those around him seem perfectly willing to gamble a few million lives to save their assets, betting that the health-care system will always be able to care for the elite.

If the coronavirus pandemic plays out according to the Imperial College London model, reopening the United States will simply compound the damage inflicted by the U.S. response. If the pandemic takes the course described by the Oxford model, other countries’ economies will sustain less damage than the U.S. economy and will rebound faster because lockdowns cause less economic damage than allowing uncontrolled infections. The U.S. stock market may soar if the Oxford model turns out to be correct, but that will do nothing for the millions of hourly workers who have been laid off, the thousands of small businesses that have gone bankrupt, and the millions of extra infections that will result if the United States opens for business too early.

If the United States goes down this path, it may finally have reached the moment former President Bill Clinton said would never come: when people make money betting against America. After all, if U.S. leaders’ best strategy in a pandemic is to “let it rip,” the rest of the world will soon stop regarding the United States as a model, for growth or anything else.

Source: The U.S. Economy Is Uniquely Vulnerable to the Coronavirus

Protect Dr. Fauci | Government Executive


Human lives depend on information-based messaging about public health—messaging that can be compromised when electoral politics interferes unduly. If Trump were to believe the #FakeFauci tweets alleging a conspiracy to undermine the president’s public support, he could have Fauci dismissed or demand that his messages be more upbeat.

Congress can prevent this: It ought to pass a law stipulating that directors of the centers and research institutes that are part of the National Institutes of Health—officials like Fauci—should be removable only for malfeasance, neglect of office, or incapacity, but not for mere policy differences or politically inconvenient messaging.

Similar protections exist for the heads of numerous independent agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and Social Security Administration. These protections prevent presidential politics from excessively influencing an administrator’s performance.

Source: Viewpoint: Protect Dr. Fauci – Government Executive

Taking Risk Out of the System | Nextgov


How do you take the risk out of government networks while also empowering local decision-making and ensuring information flows between widely dispersed stakeholders?

That’s an issue faced by governments around the world and the U.S. is starting to take positive action to address this with its proposed Cybersecurity State Coordinator Act of 2020.

The legislation is currently being considered in Congress that would require local governments to appoint a cybersecurity leader for each state. The aim is to improve coordination and intelligence sharing between state and federal governments for both preventative measures and to speed up incident response times in the event of a cyberattack.

Source: Taking Risk Out of the System – Nextgov

The Most Effective Stimulus Is Doing Whatever It Takes to Control the Coronavirus | The New Yorker


The U.S. political system has been corrupted through and through, of course. But, if you compare the passage of the stimulus bill with the halting efforts of the European Union to produce a coördinated economic response, the difference is telling.

For all the dysfunction and partisan warfare that have afflicted the U.S. institutions of governance, they did act pretty rapidly in the face of an unprecedented crisis. The result is a series of programs designed to keep households and businesses on economic life support until the public-health crisis recedes.

If the Trump Administration had shown a similar alacrity in responding to the outbreak of the virus in China, the country would be in a much better place, in terms of both a public-health and an economic perspective.

It didn’t do that, of course, and that’s why, despite the passage of the stimulus bill and the Fed’s measures, the immediate outlook for the economy remains dire.

Source: The Most Effective Stimulus Is Doing Whatever It Takes to Control the Coronavirus | The New Yorker