Swing State Pres

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

BTRTN: Absence With Malice, As the Nation Rages

Tom with the BTRTN May 2020 Month in Review.

As of April 30, there had been just over 1 million total cases of coronavirus in the United States, and the death toll had reached 64,000, the modeled level the Administration – including Dr. Birx -- had embraced for early August.  One month later, on May 31, we have passed 1.75 million cases, and the death toll exceeds 100,000.  And, let’s be clear:  there is no end in sight.  New cases continue to amass at the astonishing rate of over 20,000 per day.  (Just compare this figure to that of the combination of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, the five largest European countries that equal the U.S. population of 330 million, and who have themselves been ravaged by the pandemic -- they are now averaging less than  5,000 cases per day.)

2020 Calendar May with Large Numbers | Whatisthedatetoday.ComThe Trump Administration has, essentially, given up on containing the virus, apart from attaching itself to various efforts to find a vaccine.  There is no national effort underway to combat the spread, no “United States” strategy, coordination or call to respond to a common cause.  There are simply 50 states finding their own way, the red ones galloping ahead, spurred by a cheerleading Trump.  The blue states are not too far behind, though their re-openings are far more likely to be guided by benchmarks grounded in science, and to have built at least some degree of the required infrastructure: social distancing protocols, adequate testing and contact tracing capability.  The governors are fending for themselves, having been positioned as the faces of the crisis, convenient to take the blame should things continue to go awry, while the Trump Administration crawls away.

And the new cases rage on, 20,000 new cases per day, which will continue to result, within a week, in 1,000 more Americans dying, each and every day.

Yes, the Trump Administration and the GOP Senate have abandoned the virus.  The coronavirus task force is just about gone, the daily press briefings are gone, there was no recognition of the surpassing of the grisly 100,000 death mark.  The Trump Administration and the GOP Senate have moved on to a new topic.

The central thesis driving their new approach is one of calculated desperation:  they believe they will lose both the White House and the Senate in November if they do not show some modicum of improvement in the economy by Election Day.  And so they have recklessly, brazenly and cynically decided on a set of goals by which they will be measured, and a set of actions they will take to achieve those ends.

What are the goals?  They will ask to be judged as follows:  1) keep the death rate, however great it is, well below the 1.1 to 2.2 million projection “had nothing been done”;  and 2) improve the unemployment rate from the bottoms-out level, likely reached next month, call it 25%.  So those are the goal posts:  keep the death rate below a million, and get the unemployment rate below 25%.

Can you imagine a CEO standing before a bunch of shareholders and declaring that corporate performance should be compared to “what would have happened had we done nothing?”  As if there is a binary choice – do something or do nothing, and you should be happy that we did something?  It is truly astonishing that a large segment of the country actually buys this, not appearing to understand that any entity has choices it must make, out of a set of options for how they respond to crisis, not just whether or not they should respond. 

And that the goals should therefore not be, how to beat the worst case scenario, but rather, how to minimize deaths and job loss.

Studies are now emerging – and more will surely come – that vividly demonstrate that had the Trump Administration acted sooner, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved.  Columbia University published one that showed that 36,000 lives could have been saved simply if broadscale social distancing had been in place one week earlier – on March 8 instead of March 15. 

Of course, more lives would have been saved with even earlier such action, championed relentlessly at the bully pulpit by Trump, and with an earlier, far more urgent response to testing, PPE and ventilator shortages.  But the real point is:  life-saving measures are still being ignored.

There is no debate about the “re-opening” of America – the question is when and how fast.  A go-slow approach would doubtless have been the better choice even on economic terms.  Imagine if we had waited, collectively, one more month, from May 1 until June 1, before we started reopening?  It seems abundantly clear that the more confidence Americans have in their ability to venture safely out in the world, the more likely we will be to go out and spend money.  And the fewer new cases, the fewer deaths, the more confident we will feel.  Another month and we might very well have driven cases down to the levels Europe has achieved – the data was pointed that way.

Having defined the overall strategy and the goals by which success should be measured, Trump and the GOP have further unveiled the twin pillars of their implementation plans:  1) get Americans back to work as quickly as possible, whatever the health risks, declaring victory (whatever the data show) and getting those stores open; and 2) stop offering government support/aid/bail-out/safety nets that only serve to “incent” sheltering at home.  No more trillions coming out of Congress.

Every action you see is a reflection of this entire approach.  The demise of the coronavirus task force.  The willful disregard of the 100,000 death mark.  The questioning of the death rate.  The mocking of masks.  The “order” to re-open churches.  The deferral of Phase Four legislation.  When it comes to the coronavirus, the Trump Administration, and most of the GOP, is absent, with malice.  They are playing a cynical game with American lives; the propaganda machine has reframed the virus in partisan terms; and the only American thing to do, by their standards, is to get back to work, flock to the beaches, fill the pews; and spend, spend, spend.

And so, in May, red-state governors raced to “re-open” their states, first in Georgia and Florida, then throughout the South, the Midwest and the West, while the Northeast remained largely shut down.  Fifty different experiments are underway, balancing the trade-off of lives and jobs.  So far the early evidence is quite clear.  The Northeast, hardest hit by the pandemic, the most science-based and measured in its response, and the bluest, has seen its cases decline by half and deaths decline by about 25% in May.  The other regions, quicker to open, have seen their cases increase by nearly 25% with a slight increase in total deaths as well.

Month
New Cases
Deaths
Northeast
South/MW/West
Northeast
South/MW/West
March
113,093
72,370
2,091
1,706
April
489,026
387,207
33,432
19,869
May
234,143
478,890
20,743
20,033





Mar/Apr Growth
332%
435%
1499%
1065%
Apr/May Growth
-52%
24%
-38%
1%

The economic tragedy continues, though it has been eased in part by the rapid action of Congress in large March, notably the $2.1 trillion aid package designed as a safety net for workers and businesses.  At months’ end, fully 40 million Americans, one quarter of the work force, had filed for unemployment.  Bankruptcies abounded, including iconic names in American commerce, among them Hertz, J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus.

And where is Trump?  Finally dispensing with the coronavirus task force briefing platform  – one that consistently backfired on him with his array of anti-science based claims.  He has retreated to Twitter in an absolute orgy of malice, sending over 100 tweets on Sunday, May 10 (pathetically, that was not even a record for him).  His dark messages are remarkably out of place for these times.  In his need to find an enemy, someone to blame, he has ranged far and wide – the WHO, China, Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Democrats, Democratic governors and, more recently, Joe Scarborough, of all people.  His routine trafficking of conspiracy theories and baseless claims, the latest regarding Scarborough’s alleged involvement in the death of an aide two decades ago (patently false), has appalled even his staunchest supporters.

Absent a calming voice – the traditional role of the President in turbulent times – perhaps it is unsurprising that America is now aflame.  This combustible mix – the catastrophic death toll, the hideous pain of rampant unemployment, the frustration of shelter in place, the divisiveness over the merits of science, the inequalities in our society laid bare, all festering without any national leadership at all, the utter absence of a uniting force – was set to be lit.  What would ultimately ignite it?  A riot on a crowded beach?  The assassination of a public figure?  A mass shooting in a newly-opened mall?

It ended up being the all-too-familiar horror of a black man dying at the hands of white police officers over an alleged, non-violent crime.  George Floyd cries out, in a stunning echo of Eric Garner, “I can’t breathe” as life was crushed out of him by the knee on his neck, held firm for nearly nine minutes, in broad daylight, on camera, by a white police officer, with three colleagues standing idly by, in the United States of America.   Floyd passed out under that knee, unresponsive for the last three minutes, pronounced dead within the hour, and it was more than enough to set off the country.  Coronavirus has exposed much of what is wrong with America, the perils of underqualified leaders, the inequity in our health system, the limits of legislation in polarized times, and the disproportionate toll on our African-American community.  The death of George Floyd embodied all of that and more.

And America blew up.  In city after city, fires rage, the fire of a people in pain.  Peaceful protests turn into firestorms, as protesters express outrage at the continued abhorrent spectacle of black men dying in police custody, and at the typical outcome of this murderous violence -- no convictions, no accountability, and no change.  By the last night of the month, 20 states and more than 40 cities had enacted curfews in response to a sixth day of protests, escalating each day.

In the past, the nation would have anticipated Barack Obama, or George Bush, or Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan or Robert Kennedy, to come to the epicenter of the crisis, or the Oval Office, to speak to our collective pain, our common ideals, the gap between who we are and who we aspire to be, and our common struggle to do better.  And these fires would abate.

But instead, Donald Trump – when he was finished with his mindless, race-baiting, violence-inducing tweets (“when the looting starts, the shooting starts”) -- was in a bunker below the White House, nervous about the crowds, fearing for his own safety, cowering from his duties, and rejecting the proposal from his aides that he make an Oval Office speech to try to defuse the tension. 

And so, in the absence of leadership and the omnipresence of malice, those fires, like the virus, like the deaths, like the divisiveness, show no sign of abating. 


MONTHLY MADNESS

Every month, even the most tragic, brings its own highpoint of farce from the Trump Administration, that encapsulates the worst of what they have offered America in the last three-plus years.

On May 18, Trump revealed that he was actually taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug.  The controversial medicine has, of course, never been proven to be effective as either a preventative or cure of coronavirus, yet Trump had insisted time and again that we had “nothing to lose” in trying it.  Days after his revelation of his personal usage, results of a major study indicated that the converse was true – patients who were given the drug were more likely to die.


TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

Once again there was limited movement in Trump’s approval rating.  May was thus the 29th consecutive month that his approval rating was in the 40-45% range. 

Keep in mind that such crises are huge opportunities for presidents to expand support, as the country tends to unify against a common threat.  Trump has simply squandered this chance, and has thus been denied the reward earned by many predecssors, public approval and bipartisan support, for example, JFK in the Cuban Missile crisis (67% approval rating), George H.W. Bush in the Gulf War (86%) and George W. Bush after 9/11 (also 86%).

TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

2017
2018
2019
2020

1H
2H
1H
2H
1H
2H
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Approve
44
39
42
43
42
43
43
44
45
45
44
Disapprove
50
56
54
53
54
54
54
54
53
53
53
Net
-6
-17
-12
-10
-12
-11
-10
-11
-8
-8
-9


TRUMP’S HANDLING OF THE CORONAVIRUS CRIS

Trump’s ratings for his handling of the coronavirus now mirror his approval ratings, the politicizing of the pandemic now complete.

TRUMP HANDLING OF CORONAVIRUS
Week ending
3/7
3/14
3/21
3/28
4/4
4/11
4/18
4/25
5/2
5/9
5/16
5/23
5/30
Approve
41
44
50
51
45
46
47
46
42
43
43
43
43
Disapprove
48
51
45
45
47
51
51
51
53
54
54
55
53
Net
-7
-7
5
6
-2
-5
-4
-5
-11
-11
-10
-13
-10


TRUMP VERSUS BIDEN HEAD-TO-HEAD

Joe Biden continues to hold a commanding lead over Trump in national head-to-head polls.  However, it should be noted that due to the GOP’s structural advantages in the Electoral College (which essentially boils down to California being underrepresented), Biden +3 would be considered “even.” 

TRUMP VS BIDEN HEAD-TO-HEAD
NATIONAL

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Biden
50
50
50
48
48
Trump
45
46
43
42
43
Diff
5
5
6
6
5

Biden is also doing extremely well in head-to-head polls in the 14 swing states, with leads in five of the six states that Trump flipped in 2020 to take the presidency.

TRUMP VERSUS BIDEN SWING STATE POLLING
Swing State
Electoral Votes
2016 Result
Current Polling
BTRTN Rating
Maine
2
Clinton + 3
Biden + 4
D Lean
Nevada
6
Clinton + 2
Biden + 4
D Lean
Minnesota
10
Clinton + 2
Biden + 5
D Lean
New Hampshire
4
Clinton + 0.3
Biden + 8
D Lean
Michigan
16
Trump + 0.2
Biden + 8
D TU
Pennsylvania
20
Trump + 0.7
Biden + 7
D TU
Wisconsin
10
Trump + 0.8
Biden + 3
D TU
Florida
29
Trump + 1.2
Biden + 3
R TU
Arizona
11
Trump + 4
Biden + 7
D TU
North Carolina
15
Trump + 4
Trump + 1
R TU
Georgia
16
Trump + 5
Trump + 1
R Lean
Iowa
6
Trump + 9
Trump + 2
R Lean
Ohio
18
Trump + 9
Trump + 3
R Lean
Texas
38
Trump + 11
Trump + 3
R Lean




















GENERIC BALLOT

The Democrats continued to hold a healthy lead in the generic ballot, which is a very strong predictor of November performance.  If the Democrats continue to hold an 8-point lead come Election Day, they stand to pick up 15-20 more seats to add to their overwhelming majority in the House.

GENERIC BALLOT

2019
2020
Jn
Jl
A
S
O
N
D
J
F
M
A
M
Dem
45
46
47
47
47
47
48
45
47
49
46
48
GOP
39
38
38
39
39
39
41
41
40
40
39
40
Net
7
8
9
8
7
7
8
5
6
9
8
8


TRUMPOMETER

The Trumpometer nosedived April to May, from -60 to -112, as the unemployment rate totally cratered.  The -112 Trumpometer reading means that, on average, our five economic measures are -112% lower than they were at the time of Trump’s Inauguration, per the chart below (and with more explanation of methodology below). 

The Dow has been surprisingly strong, as investors continue to believe in the long-term health of the economy regardless of the short-to-intermediate term damage caused by the pandemic.  Consumer confidence stabilized at 87, and the GDP first adjustment was modest, taking Q1 down from -4.8 to -5.0.  Gas prices increased by nearly 20 cents per gallon.

The “Trumpometer” was designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  The Trumpometer now stands at -112, which of course means things are far worse, even worse than the -53 recorded at the end of George W. Bush’s time in office, in the midst of the Great Recession.


Clinton
Bush
Obama
Trump
TRUMPOMETER
End Clinton  1/20/2001
End Bush 1/20/2009
End Obama 1/20/2017 (Base = 0)
Trump 4/30/2020
Trump 5/31/2020
% Chg. Vs. Inaug. (+ = Better)
Trumpometer
25
-53
0
-60
-112
-112%







  Unemployment Rate
4.2
7.8
4.7
4.4
14.7
-213%
  Consumer Confidence
129
38
114
87
87
-24%
  Price of Gas
1.27
1.84
2.44
1.87
2.05
-16%
  Dow Jones
10,588
8,281
19,732
24,346
25,383
29%
  GDP
4.5
-6.2
2.1
-4.8
-5.0
-338%


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Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Trump Inaugural on January 20, 2017, on an average percentage change basis... The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline, and the GDP. 








5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you wouldn't mind if I played Russian Roulette with your head, as long as the odds are one in 300, for no benefit to you, just because I want to? That's what you're proposing, except that you don't know who you might kill when you spread the virus, nor do you know how many others there will be.

      And most people ARE informed, and have better numbers than that CDC fantasy.

      In the big picture, today's numbers are
      Coronavirus Cases: 6,428,533
      Deaths: 379,568
      Recovered: 2,943,646
      and that doesn't count all the people who died of heart attacks, blood clots, or respiratory diseases while or shortly after suffering from coronavirus.

      Delete
    2. The death rate to date is 5-6%, with deaths as a percentage of those who test positive. Obviously we know it is higher among risk groups.

      Delete
    3. Death rate of what we KNOW is 5-6% of confirmed cases. We haven't done enough testing of any sort to determine the actual infection rate, and the CDC hasn't done their formulaic assessments to determine how many of the "excess" deaths ought to be considered part of the overall burden of COVID-19.

      What bothers me about the quibbling over uncertain numbers -- It is serious, whether you say the deaths in a partial year of disease is "only" 60,000 or if the "real" number is 120,000. We've taken highly disruptive efforts to avoid unrestrained spread -- and in less than half a year, it has killed more people than a full year of auto accidents, any full flu season of the past decade, and by the end of this month a year of Alzheimer or stroke deaths.

      Delete
  2. Anonymous. I have deleted your comment because it contains incorrect information on an important matter. I will publish your comments, even if you offer opinions that I disagree with, but I will not publish misinformation.

    ReplyDelete

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