Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The American people have been ordered to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the economic recovery. Note the lack of balloons, however, and that the marching bands have their feet up.

President Donald Trump, of course, is a brass section unto himself. He’s been trumpeting the “Trump economy,” even though nearly eight of those 10 years were under Barack Obama.

Consider this recent presidential tweet: “More people are working today in the United States, 158,000,000, than at any time in our Country’s history. That is a Big Deal!”

That is a good thing, but a big deal? No. First off, there are more people in the U.S. than ever before. More to the point, only 20,000 nonfarm payrolls were added last month. That prompted this sober headline from CNBC: “Job creation grinds to a near-halt in February.”

Stock investors have enjoyed a very nice run (as they did in the Obama years). But down in the trenches of blue-collar America, things aren’t nearly as hot. Factory workers are finding plenty of jobs, and their wages are creeping up. But solidly middle-class paychecks, once the pride of our manufacturing economy, have not returned.

The happy message clashes with reports that a record number of Americans died in 2017 from alcohol, drugs and suicide. These largely self-inflicted tragedies have been called “deaths of despair.”

Of course, it’s not only about money. The loss of strong families has left many troubled people bereft of help, love and solace when hopelessness takes over.

But add in threats to the government benefits important to working Americans, and you have major-league anxiety. Of special concern is the Affordable Care Act, which the Trump administration is doing its best to dismantle. For many families facing health crises, medical coverage is all that stands between making do and destitution.

Candidate Trump played the self-made billionaire, promising to do for struggling Americans what he did for himself. (Actually, his father gave him $413 million in today’s dollars.) Upon being elected, he continued to do for himself, while delivering daily pep talks to working folk.

His tax cut sent nearly all the benefits to the top incomes. The savings for the lower incomes were meager and designed to expire shortly.

It can’t be said that the tax cuts did nothing to goose the larger economy. They did, but that magic is about to expire. And by the way, it was all done with borrowed money.

The trade war spectacle has taken a bite out of the economy’s animal spirits. The marquee event is the battle with China. One hopes that Trump will succeed in stopping China’s very unfair trading practices: illegal government subsidies, biased regulations and theft of intellectual property.

But his announcement that China may guarantee purchases of U.S. soybeans sets off a long yawn. The Chinese were importing enormous shiploads of soybeans before Trump launched the trade war.

As a commodity trader told Bloomberg News, “The markets are a little tired of some of the ups and downs and the eight or 12-hour news cycle of tweets.” Oh, yes, the trade deficit — a Trumpian obsession — is now the highest in 10 years.

Trump routinely deafened Twitter with his promise of 4 percent growth in the economy. The gross domestic product hasn’t even passed 3 percent for any year. Better times, meanwhile, are not yet to come.

Economists see the economy softening, and the manufacturing sector seems to know it. “SC businesses brace for eventual recession,” says a pessimistic headline in The (Charleston, South Carolina) Post and Courier.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.