Financial values went back up somewhat in reaction to the Federal Reserve’s resolve to inject up to 1.5 trillion dollars into the banking system and in reaction to the White House’s Rose Garden show Friday March 13. Trump was awful in his emcee role: health authorities were paraded before the microphone, and so were Pence and a number of CEOs of some large pharmaceutical companies and distributors like Walmart, Target-CVS, Roche, etc… They spent much of their time thanking a president who managed to get a number of facts wrong. He uttered a few lies. And he didn’t own up of course to terrible decisions made by his government, like the dismantling of the National Security Council’s global-health office. At least, small consolation, he didn’t talk anymore about a “foreign” virus. The take away from this Rose Garden exhibition was a belated recognition of the seriousness of the situation. And more practically, access to testing would ramp up by next week although Trump managed to still claim that it is not really necessary! No mention of course that a preliminary test had been developed by the end of January, about a week after China identified the gene structure, that the World Health Organization recommended this test for now, and that it was broadly distributed and used systematically in countries like South Korea but not in the US.
Other news that are diagnostic of the social chaos in our country: the democratic majority in the House voted for a package last night that was meant to support workers if they or their family members get sick. We learn today that the main provision—universal right to sick pay for ten days for any sick employee—will apply only to about 20% of workers, strictly speaking. It will exempt small and large companies. This was apparently the price that the House Democrats had to pay for getting Republicans and the White House on board, though about forty of the Republican representatives did not see the wisdom of such a watered down version of the law and still voted no. Today’s NYT editorial said that the Democrats should have pushed for the universal plan and forced the Republicans to explain their opposition to paid sick leave. But perhaps the most important thing was to get any legal package, no matter how imperfect and unjust, to be approved by a chaotic White House and a servile Senate. One may also think that not only Republicans but a number of Democrats worry about the economic cost of a protective, fairer, less exploitative labor law?. It looks like the Democrats wasted an opportunity to make some real progress in support of labor. This decision means that too many employees will show up for work even if they are sick, and that the virus will spread at a greater rate than would have occurred otherwise. I hope that our leaders are not choosing the economy over life.