Guest: Financial journalist David Dayen on 'Phase III' stimulus/bailout, Trump's deadly lies; Also: India's total lockdown; NY screams for help; Dems unite against $500B White House bailout 'slush fund' scheme...
By Brad Friedman on 3/24/2020, 6:32pm PT  

As Congress fights over its promised $2 trillion "Phase III" relief bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we've got some dumb questions for our guest about it all on today's BradCast.

But first, some of the latest news from around the world and the nation. India announced a 21-day lockdown for all residents, including "a total ban on venturing out" of the house, according to President Narendra Modi on Tuesday. That lockdown for all of India's 1.3 billion citizens, in a nation with three of the world's 10 most densely populated cities, comes after just 469 identified cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths there.

That is by way of contrast with New York, where its "only" 20 million residents are now facing more than 25,000 reported cases and at least 157 deaths, as the number of cases is now reportedly doubling every three days. The most infections are in New York City, which does not even make the list of the world's 10 mostly densely populated cities. The state's Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday is expressing growing frustration with the federal government, after they received just 400 ventilators in New York City, despite a need for as many as 30,000. They also estimate that as many as 140,000 hospital bed will be needed for virus patients, while only 53,000 are currently available. The state, the Governor says, has not "flattened the curve," which he describes as "actually increasing" despite the statewide stay-at-home order issued late last week.

At the same time, Donald Trump is attacking Cuomo for some reason or another, while lying about GM, Ford and Tesla "right now" making ventilators "FAST!". They are not and likely will not be doing so for a number of weeks or even months at earliest.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, Trump suggested that by Easter (April 12), he hopes to roll back the current White House recommendations for social distancing in order to try and save the economy --- apparently no matter how many Americans he helps kill in the bargain. And it could be millions dead if he follows up with the action that he and Fox "News" have been suggesting and threatening of late, while the President of the United States continues to misleadingly argue that "we can't let the cure be worse than the problem." The "problem" for Trump, in this case, is not dead Americans. It's a tanking economy that he fears may harm his reelection chances.

But while Trump is busy lying and misleading in televised briefings and Fox interviews, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are trying to pass a record $2 trillion emergency relief package and claim they are close to reaching an agreement. That, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, frustrated with GOP intransigence on the Senate side on Monday night, released their own 1,400 page proposal called "The Take Responsibility for Workers & Families Act" which would pump hundreds of billions toward hospitals, health care workers and emergency medical coverage while expanding unemployment insurance, medicaid, food assistance programs, offering $500 billion in loans and grants to small businesses, help on some student loan debt, and immediate cash assistance to everyone in America.

We're joined today by The American Prospect's Executive Editor, longtime financial journalist DAVID DAYEN to explain the proposed bills and answer several "dumb questions" of mine about how the bailout programs might be structured to actually ensure help to individual Americans rather than corporate interests. One is my question about his thoughts on my own bipartisan stimulus proposal for a bailout that would let corporations keep the huge tax cuts they received in 2017 (stimulus that many of them have squandered) in exchange for the same amount of direct cash payments to individuals now and in the future, until such time as both can be stopped when the emergency is over.

Another question is whether all rent and mortgages can simply be paused until the crisis is over. Dayen tells me that is called "forbearance" and a version of it was actually included in the proposal Pelosi introduced last night. Whether it will remain in the Senate bill, of course, remains to be seen.

Dayen, who wrote an award-winning book on the 2008 financial meltdown, also offers a likely explanation for Trump's threatened plan to try and re-open the country for business after Easter, and whether the economic damage wrought by the current pandemic is likely to be even worse than the 2008 mortgage disaster.

Also, the two excellent recent stories by David at The Prospect that I quickly referenced on today's show:

  • "Mind the Trust Gap" - The story of scarce face masks during a pandemic points to a greater failing: Government has placed corporate greed above the public good.
  • "An Iowa-Style Voting Disaster in Los Angeles": A new voting system led to a debacle on Super Tuesday in the City of Angels. With similar machines in critical states like Georgia, election experts are raising alarm. (As noted, I am liberally quoted throughout that one, but it is an excellent piece anyway!)

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report in these grim times, with a few more "bright" lessons we can take from the coronavirus fallout around the globe, several ongoing and pending climate crisis-related disasters in African and the U.S. Midwest, and California's largest utility company pleading guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter. (Told ya these were grim times!)

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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