“utopsies have now revealed that COVID-19 was responsible for the February 6 and 17 deaths of two people in Santa Clara County. Another person in Santa Clara died of COVID-19 on March 6.
“These three individuals died at home during a time when very limited testing was available,” said the county’s statement, noting that at the time, “testing criteria set by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms.””
“Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith suggested that the news may mean COVID-19 was spreading around parts of the U.S. for “a lot longer than we first believed.” Contradicting current wisdom on the matter, Smith said the virus most likely hit some U.S. communities “back in December.””
“Trump launched his first presidential bid by denouncing Mexicans as “rapists” and “criminals” and pledged to build a “big, beautiful” wall on the southern border. But what began as a slam on unauthorized immigration morphed into an all-out assault on legal immigration as soon as he walked into the White House.
One of his first acts was to ban travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. He also slashed America’s refugee program in less than half and is failing to admit even the number he allowed. But these and other moves were just baby steps toward a much more ambitious agenda to slash and radically revamp America’s legal immigration program.
He demanded that Congress cut family-based immigration in half in exchange for reinstating the legal status of “Dreamers,” which he himself had scrapped. (Dreamers are folks who were brought to this country without authorization as minors, who have grown up as Americans and often have little connection with their birthlands.) But when Congress demurred, he went to town to achieve through administrative means what he couldn’t through legislative ones—the kind of thing that Republicans used to vociferously condemn when Trump’s predecessor attempted it.
Trump scrapped the Obama-era program handing work authorization to the spouses of foreign techies enduring a decades long wait for their already approved green cards. His “Buy American and Hire American” executive order smothered the high-tech H-1B visa program in red tape, vastly increasing the processing time and doubling the rejection rate. As if that’s not enough, he recently implemented something called the public charge rule, which makes it exceedingly difficult for immigrants to upgrade their immigration status—for example, guest worker visas to green cards and green cards to naturalization—if they or their American family members collect or are likely to collect even the smallest amount of some means-tested cash or non-cash public benefits. This, along with other measures, will result in a 30 percent reduction in legal immigration next year, according to a National Foundation for American Policy study.
The coronavirus crisis has been manna from heaven for Trump’s restrictionist agenda.
The only visas that were still being entertained at all—albeit at an extremely scaled-back level—were long-term visas for jobs, visas for studying in the United States, and green cards sponsored either by American employers or American family. This long-term program is what Trump’s unprecedented executive order is now purportedly going after.
Trump claims that the ban will last 60 days after which he may review and renew it for another 60 or so. But his travel ban was supposed to last 90 days. It is now on day 1,181 and covers even more countries.”
“the vast exemptions that Trump is planning to carve in the virtual wall he’s constructing to seal off America from the world are a tacit admission that immigrants are indispensable for vital sectors of the American economy, not a threat to American jobs.
The purpose of Trump’s executive order, then, must be to rally his restrictionist base and ensure that it makes the schlep to the polls this November. It’s pure political posturing that’ll do not an iota of good for America.”
“Republicans in Congress, on the whole, no longer care about debt or deficits—at least not in any substantive sense. That’s a problem for a number of reasons, not least that it increases the risk of a debt crisis in the future.
Those same Republicans spent the better part of Barack Obama’s presidency complaining bitterly about the trillion-dollar budget gaps the country ran during his first term, and President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail to eliminate all federal debt. But since Trump’s election, deficits have increased even faster than expected, and the total federal debt has risen accordingly. That, in turn, is likely to have long-term consequences for both the economy and for the broader politics of debt and deficits.”
“By 2030, CBO projects the deficit—the annual gap between spending and revenues—will reach $1.7 trillion, which was roughly the size of the entire federal budget in 1999. Rising debt and deficits, the budget office predicts, will coincide with slowing economic growth, dropping from 2.2 percent this year to 1.5 percent a decade from now. The federal government will be borrowing more, and the economy will be expanding at a slower pace. It may not lead to an immediate economic crisis, but the nation is spending and borrowing into stagnancy and decline.”
“The biggest drivers of long-term debt are Medicare and Social Security, which benefit seniors, many of whom are reliable Republican voters. Trump ran against cutting those entitlements, and although his rhetoric has wavered slightly in recent months, he has not pressed the issue. Republicans in Congress don’t exactly seem eager to tackle it either. (Trump’s 2020 budget proposed reducing some Medicare payments, similar to proposals made by the Obama administration, but would leave the program’s essential benefit structure intact.)
Trump also does not appear to worry much about what happens down the road. When his advisers in 2018 raised the possibility of a future deficit crisis, the president reportedly shrugged it off, saying, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.” Absent some event to force his hand, it’s unlikely that attitude will change.”
“One possible forcing event would be the election of a Democratic president in 2020, which would almost certainly see the GOP return to its Obama-era complaints about sky-high debt and deficits.
Yet if that were to happen, Democrats would most likely dismiss these complaints as hypocritical—not as honest efforts to enforce needed fiscal restraint but as self-interested attempts to check the opposite party’s agenda. The Democratic primary race, which has prominently featured calls for tens of trillions in new spending, has already provided evidence for this view.”
“Governing requires setting priorities, and that’s never more important than during a crisis. Members of Congress have a political incentive to spend and spend and spend, but there simply isn’t enough money to go around—in fact, we passed that point a long time ago.
“I do believe it makes sense for the government to provide support to businesses and families that can’t make it through this,” Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), who voted against this week’s coronavirus bill, said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “I don’t want to see this massive accumulation of debt destroy this great country.”
Lawmakers would do well to keep one eye on the mounting debt as they consider their next steps.”
“the obscure realm of state-level legal authority known as unclaimed property law, or “escheatment.” According to some state governments—Delaware is the most zealous about this, but other states have joined in—a gift card that never gets redeemed isn’t just a pleasant windfall for the merchant. It’s a form of “unclaimed property,” just like a bank account or stock share whose original owner loses or abandons it.
That means all of it—the whole sum—becomes the property of the state.
States like Delaware send in audit teams that calculate how much outstanding gift card obligation is on your books and apply complex formulas to guess what portion of it is likely to go unredeemed. They then demand that you pay that sum to them, not to any customer. Even if you negotiate them down, you’ll probably be writing checks to your accountant and your lawyer.”
“Fears of COVID-19 infection may have emptied the streets of Miami, but criminals are not taking advantage of the situation. Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina says that not only has violent crime plunged in the city, but Miami has not reported a homicide in six weeks. That hasn’t happened since 1964.”
“According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, the projected number of displaced Venezuelans—6.5 million people, or as much as 19 percent of the country’s total population according to another estimate—could soon surpass that of Syria, where civil war has unleashed a humanitarian calamity.
As I wrote when I visited the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, an uninformed observer might think that the hundreds of Venezuelan evacuees sleeping in parks or pedestrian roundabouts were escaping war or natural disaster. They had actually escaped a man-made catastrophe”
“At the beginning of the 20th century, there were virtually no zoning laws in the United States. By 1921, zoning had come to 48 large U.S. cities, representing a fifth of the country’s population. By 1932, 1,165 municipal governments had adopted zoning, covering more than two-thirds of the urban population. By 1968, nearly every metropolitan government had zoning, as did large swaths of rural America.
It was a revolution, and a rapid one. Property owners were once allowed to use their land for the most profitable or desirable use: live on it, sell it to a commercial or industrial business, sell it to a developer. Now nearly every municipality has rules that dictate how a piece of land can be used and what kinds of housing, if any, are allowed on it.
This wasn’t a spontaneous shift: The federal government made a concerted effort to promote the comprehensive regulation of local land use through zoning. That hasn’t just meant a decline in Americans’ liberties. It has meant sharp increases in the cost of housing and a country much more segregated by class and race.
Zoning arose at a time of rapid urbanization: The percentage of Americans living in urban areas jumped from 14 percent in 1880 to 54 percent in 1920. One source of this swelling was the Great Migration of African Americans out of the South and into Northern cities. Another was the large-scale migration of Eastern and Southern Europeans to the United States: The foreign-born share of American residents peaked at 15 percent around 1920.”
“In 1920, native-born whites were much more likely to be homeowners than were immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe, or Hispanics, or Asians, or African Americans. So zoning laws prioritized the single-family detached home and sought to isolate it from multifamily housing and from commerce. Robert Whitten, an early zoning leader who consulted around the country, was explicit about this. When Atlanta hired him to develop the city’s zoning statutes in 1922, Whitten tried to prohibit black people from living in white neighborhoods, even though the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down such laws in 1917.
More broadly, Whitten argued that even one apartment sends a community of single-family homes down a slippery slope of devaluation. His views were influential: He co-authored the New York City Planning Resolution, adopted in 1916, which the 1968 Douglas Commission—a working group charged with reporting to Congress about urban problems—later cited as setting “the basic pattern for zoning ordinances to this day.” That law attempted to curb the mixed use of land (combining businesses and residences) practiced by the city’s recent immigrants.”
“I don’t want to suggest that zoning has had no positive effects. It has helped improve the quality and safety of housing. It has made it easier to link housing developments to roads, water, sewage pipes, and other infrastructure. It has certainly accomplished its goals of stabilizing property values and helping families keep away from factories, nightclubs, and garbage dumps. It may not be the only way to achieve such ends, but it has achieved them.
Yet zoning has failed by the most obvious and measurable metric: It has made housing far less affordable.
Zoning, by its nature, restricts the supply of housing. Where prices exceed construction and renovation costs, as they do now throughout the country, developers have a strong incentive to build more units on each acre of existing land. Zoning forbids this in all but the small areas set aside for multifamily housing.”
“The United States stands out as having the largest gap between rich and poor in neighborhood quality among rich democracies. Using Gallup World Poll data from 2009–2017, I was able to calculate the percentage of people in each country who rate their neighborhood favorably in terms of overall satisfaction, safety, affordability, and similar measures. I found that people in the bottom income quintile in the United States were roughly 15 percentage points less likely to give favorable answers than people in the top income quintile. That compares to a gap of only two percentage points in Sweden.
European land use policies, scholars have found, are not biased in favor of single-family homes the way they are in the United States. And the hostility to urbanization found among early 20th century American elites wasn’t nearly as popular in Europe, which experienced centuries of city life before the United States was even established.”