PPP loans were supposed to be forgiven. Business owners say they’re still waiting.

“Congress created the PPP when it passed the CARES Act in March, aiming to funnel billions of dollars through banks to businesses that were suffering from widespread lockdowns during the pandemic. The loans were mainly meant to cover payroll, a way to keep employees earning money while stopping companies from going under, and were designed to be completely forgiven if used properly.”

“The SBA released an “EZ application” for PPP forgiveness on June 16, but business owners can’t submit the forms directly to the agency — they have to go through their lenders instead. And both banks and the SBA have barely gotten things off the ground.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the SBA received only about 56,000 decisions on whether to forgive loans from banks by September 8 — which amounts to just 1 percent of the 5.2 million loans issued. None had actually been forgiven as of October 1. Meanwhile, the SBA issued new information and rules on July 23, August 4, and August 11, and it still hadn’t finished creating a process for reviewing lenders’ decisions as of August 14. On October 1, the SBA said it would start forgiving loans after banks and borrowers complained.”

“Even once the forgiveness process truly gets underway, many business owners aren’t sure exactly what paperwork will be required of them. Sixty-eight percent of the Main Street Alliance survey respondents were concerned that the process wasn’t clear, with two-thirds saying they don’t understand what’s eligible for forgiveness given the many changes in the program, and over half were confused about what documents are required. The details matter: About two-thirds fear not getting their loans forgiven, while 43 percent are concerned they won’t have any recourse if they feel a decision isn’t fair.”

Biden and Trump Offer Competing Tax Proposals, but Both Ignore Economic Reality

“In a world in which economic reality mattered to politicians, grandiose spending plans coupled with soaring government debt would pretty much preordain grim tax policy. But we don’t live in that world. In ours, tax and spending proposals are crafted based on their appeal to target audiences of voters, with no regard for balancing books or averting financial catastrophe.”

“It’s necessary, though probably pointless, to emphasize that neither Trump’s nor Biden’s tax plans come close to paying for the federal government’s anticipated spending spree in the years to come.”

America needs to close down

“The past few months have been an American experiment with Covid-19: Can the country keep bars, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses open while fighting the virus with milder measures, including some social distancing and widespread masking?

Six months after spring shutdowns ended, the answer is clear: The milder approach isn’t working.

The US surpassed 100,000 daily new coronavirus cases on November 4, and it’s gone on to regularly break new records for coronavirus cases since then — with the most recent high exceeding 180,000 on Friday. Hospitalizations have skyrocketed to their highest level of the pandemic, leaving a growing number of hospitals around the US, from Arizona and Texas to Ohio and Tennessee, nearing or at capacity. And deaths are climbing: now above 1,000 a day once again, with a growing likelihood that the country will surpass 2,000 or even 3,000 a day in the coming weeks and months — on top of the more than 246,000 Covid-19 deaths that America has seen so far.”

“To avert possibly hundreds of thousands of deaths in the months before a vaccine becomes widely available, the US needs to close down once again. That means temporarily shuttering in-person, indoor services at nonessential businesses, particularly bars and restaurants; restricting larger gatherings, including in private homes; and encouraging, or outright mandating, people to stay home as much as possible — only going out for food, work, exercise, health care, and other basics needs — and limit their social interactions to their own households.”

“if closing down is necessary again, Congress should make similar moves — from boosting unemployment insurance to offering financial aid, even a bailout, to the businesses most affected. This wouldn’t just ease people’s economic suffering but also make closing down more bearable and, as a result, more sustainable.”

“we’ve now seen again and again what happens when countries try to keep indoor businesses in particular open as cases remain elevated or go up. Unlike many countries in Europe, Asia, and Oceania, the US never truly suppressed cases, outside of a handful of states, largely because it moved to reopen so quickly. That’s left the country in a vulnerable position as we barrel to what may be the worst Covid-19 outbreak the country will ever see.”

“A Health Affairs study found government-imposed social distancing measures reduced the growth rate of coronavirus cases, particularly the longer measures remained in place. A study in The Lancet produced similar results. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Delaware found its lockdown, paired with contact tracing and a mask mandate, contributed to 80-plus percent drops in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by the summer.

A more pessimistic working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, while lockdowns reduced Covid-19 cases, their effect might have been limited because people were already voluntarily staying home at the time. But that still means the concept of people social distancing and limiting their interactions is effective. (That differs from the situation today, where increasingly fewer people are voluntarily distancing.)”

“In September, Israel suffered what was the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the world at the time. The country first tried milder, more targeted measures — and, after they failed, imposed a lockdown. And despite some public opposition, it worked to massively reduce cases from October to this month.”

“There are real downsides to closing down. Throughout the pandemic, people have reported more mental health problems, and drug overdose deaths have increased. There are massive economic problems, with the spring lockdown producing record-shattering unemployment filings (in the millions) and likely increases in poverty only averted by the CARES Act passed by Congress.

The effects of the lockdown were also unequal. While wealthier people in office jobs could largely transition to working from home, lower-income workers either lost their jobs as their employers shut down or were effectively forced to work in “essential” workplaces. A Nature study, looking at cellphone data, found that mobility during the spring lockdown dropped significantly more in higher-income communities than in their lower-income counterparts.”

“many of these problems could be mitigated with more action by Congress.”

“A key mistake made during the spring lockdown is that the US didn’t use the time it bought productively. Instead of building a national testing and tracing system, President Donald Trump’s administration punted the issue down to the states. Congress and state officials should take steps to ensure things go differently this time around — building up testing and tracing regimes, and full cooperation between states’ systems, to keep the US safe as cases are, hopefully, suppressed closer to zero.

In addition, all levels of government could use the time to prepare for widespread vaccine distribution.”

“A big reason that states aren’t closing down right now is because they simply don’t have the resources or reach, especially as they deal with an economic downturn, to offer enough financial support to individuals and businesses hurt by new restrictions. The federal government does.”

“The alternative, at the current rates of spread, is we go through the winter and into the spring with a widespread scourge that kills possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans and, ironically, impedes our ability to reopen more of the economy as much of the public remains terrified of going out while cases are high and it takes months to roll out a vaccine. (There’s historical evidence for this: A preliminary study of the 1918 flu pandemic found the US cities that took stronger measures against outbreaks saw quicker economic recoveries.)

Everyone wants to go back to normal. As unpopular as closing down may be right now, it’s how we can do it sooner rather than later.”

Who’s Worse on Housing, Trump or Biden?

“The bill Trump is referencing is the Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity (HOME) Act, sponsored in 2019 by Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.). It would attach conditions to funding from the federal Community Development and Surface Transportation block grant programs, requiring states to implement strategies for making housing more affordable and “inclusive.”

Biden’s housing platform endorses the HOME Act. It also says that he would direct his transportation and housing secretaries to identify other federal grant programs that can be amended to require states and localities to amend their zoning codes.

The HOME Act would require recipients of federal housing and transportation funds to file strategic plans and annual progress reports detailing “transformative activities” they’ve taken to “reduce barriers to housing development, including affordable housing, and increase housing supply affordability and elasticity.”

The bill offers a detailed menu of policies that states and localities could adopt to boost affordable housing production, including removing restrictions on multi-family housing, eliminating off-street parking requirements, shortening permitting timelines, and removing height limits on new construction.

It is this—encouraging new construction in tightly regulated areas—that Trump calls the death of the suburbs. It’s also an approach some free marketers have embraced, given the deregulatory nature of many, though not all, of the HOME Act’s policies.”

“Before the president adopted his “war on suburbs” rhetoric this year, he favored a limited version of this very approach: requiring recipients of federal housing dollars to report on specific things they’re doing to deregulate their housing markets.”

“the more leverage the federal government has over state and local governments’ land use policies, the greater the risk that leverage is used for policies that have little to do with free markets.”

Election Day was a major rejection of the war on drugs

“In every state where a ballot measure asked Americans to reconsider the drug war, voters sided with reformers. In Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, voters legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. In Mississippi and South Dakota (separate from the full legalization measure), voters legalized medical marijuana.

In Oregon, voters decriminalized — but not legalized — all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Also in Oregon, voters legalized the use of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms, for supervised therapeutic uses.

In Washington, DC, voters in effect decriminalized psychedelic plants, following the lead of several other cities.

With its vote, Oregon became the first state in the US to decriminalize all drugs in modern times. And marijuana is now legalized in 15 states and DC, although DC still doesn’t allow sales.”

Does Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) Destroy National Debt Concerns? SOURCES.

The Real News Podcast – Modern Monetary Theory – A Debate Between Randall Wray and Gerald Epstein The Real News. 2019. https://www.spreaker.com/user/therealnews/the-real-news-podcast-modern-monetary-th Is MMT “America First” Economics? Gerald Epstein. 3 20 2019. Institute for New Economic Thinking. https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/is-mmt-america-first-economics On Modern Monetary Theory

Why North and South Dakota are suffering the worst Covid-19 epidemics in the US

“North and South Dakota have taken a laissez-faire approach to dealing with Covid-19 — never instituting stay-at-home orders or mask mandates as other states, including some of their neighbors, did.

South Dakota in particular took a very hands-off approach, with no restrictions even on large gatherings. The strongest action Republican Gov. Kristi Noem took was to push businesses to follow safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Otherwise, Noem has boasted about her state’s loose strategy: She argued in an ad that businesses struggling with restrictions in other states should “come grow [their] company” in South Dakota.

“Here in South Dakota, we trust our people,” Noem said. “We respect their rights. We won’t shut them down.”

Noem still defends her approach, arguing in a recent op-ed that she’ll continue to resist stricter measures. “I’m going to continue to trust South Dakotans to make wise and well-informed decisions for themselves and their families,” she wrote.

North Dakota has done a little more. While avoiding statewide restrictions and lockdowns, Republican Gov. Doug Burgum in October called for reduced business capacity in some counties as cases spiked in his state. But these are mere recommendations — it’s hard to know if any businesses are following them — and, even then, he stopped short of recommending closures.

North Dakota also has one of the most expansive testing regimes in the US — consistently reporting one of the highest rates of coronavirus testing in the country. This may partially explain its high case count, although its positivity rate indicates that it still doesn’t have enough testing. And that testing-and-tracing system can only do so much once the virus is completely out of control, which growing hospitalizations and death rates are evidence of.

“Our contact tracers are overwhelmed with a backlog of cases,” Carson said. “We have further heard from many of our contact tracers that they are meeting increasing resistance from people to give up their contacts or abide by quarantine rules. People have become fatigued with the restrictions.”

Similar to South Dakota’s governor, North Dakota’s Burgum has pushed a message of personal responsibility. “It’s not a job for government,” he said. “This is a job for everybody.””