[WSMDiscuss] Trump Insists He Has ‘Total’ Authority to Supersede Governors; Governors Resist, Push Back (New York Times)

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Tue Apr 14 17:40:43 CEST 2020

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Viruses in movement…, The US in movement…, The world in movement…

[The sheer power of the corona virus, and its ability to break through cracks – and to open new cracks - has been and continues to be extraordinary, and awesome (not said in the North American sense; used here in the sense of filling one with awe).  It has of course led to a wide range of social and political actors protesting the ways in which the state has handled (or not handled) the epidemic, or is exploiting it, as well as plunging into socially supportive actions as well as proposing alternative visions.  And there are of course so many instances of especially political actors, so far, trying to use the situation to gain political (and financial) advantage.  

[Another profound dimension of the unfolding scenario is the possibility – and perhaps even likelihood – of whole food systems breaking down… which is unthinkable but has to be thought about….

[But another dimension of what is taking place is macro-political and geopolitical in nature, in terms of impacts on national and international polities.  Articles are beginning to appear about, for instance, the paralysis and impotence of the UN in the current situation.  I’ve already done posts of what seems to be unfolding in Brazil (see ‘Brazilian President Bolsonaro Is Out Of Power, Replaced By General Netto’)[1] <applewebdata://EB0A0ADC-F62A-4C7B-B75B-CEF6082A19C6#_ftn1> and in the US (see ‘We cannot rely on Trump. Congress must lead the way in this unprecedented crisis’), both on April 9.  Now read the extraordinary briefing from the New York Times below, on the power struggle that is threatening to break out (has already broken out ?) in the US, at the very highest levels.  Look up also the many articles that have appeared on the huge spike that is also currently taking place in the US down ‘there’, in terms of the purchase of ‘small arms’ – as people arm themselves for the apocalypse that is coming ?  And where there is open talk of whether the US will even survive this crisis, as a federated state… because it was founded on a division of powers that is now being challenged by the president himself, and so where… anything can happen.

[In short, I believe we need to also recognise – as we talk about alternatives and about going through the portal that the virus has created - this extraordinary dimension, and possibility, as we move forward; and not only within the US, which is big enough, but also elsewhere, such as in the European Union, the United Nations, and in other nation-states, especially the larger, federated ones, perhaps… :

Trump Insists He Has ‘Total’ Authority to Supersede Governors

Governors Resist, Push Back

State leaders on both coasts are starting to debate how and when to reopen. The closure of a major meat processing plant could affect the nation’s food supply

New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare>

Here’s what you need to know:

Governors team up to discuss reopening their states. Trump asserts “total” authority to overrule them. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare#link-530676d9>
Trump defends his response and attacks the news media. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare#link-62508710>
Business leaders and the C.D.C. warn that the economy will recover slowly. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare#link-36da02fa>
A major meat plant’s closing could affect the food supply chain. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare#link-b0c2410>
A stalemate in Congress over emergency aid seems likely to continue. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare#link-7382de1b>
Facing testing backlogs, sick patients wait all night at drive-through sites. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare#link-5f62bae0>
Coronavirus concerns could lead to fewer measles vaccinations. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/us/coronavirus-updates.html?referringSource=articleShare#link-6373d4e0>
Governors team up to discuss reopening their states. Trump asserts “total” authority to overrule them.

Hours after two groups of governors announced that they were forming regional working groups to help plan when it would be safe to ease restrictions and reopen their economies, President Trump asserted in a White House news briefing that the authority to make such decisions rested with him.

“The president of the United States calls the shots,” Mr. Trump said. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”

The announcements by the governors, who formed groups on both coasts, came hours after the president wrote on Twitter <https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1249712404260421633?s=20> that such a decision lies with the president, not the states, and before he made the point more forcefully to reporters in Washington.

Asked what provisions of the Constitution gave him the power to override the states if they wanted to remain closed, he said, “Numerous provisions,” without naming any.

His daylong assertions of power appeared to have little effect on the governors.

“Well, seeing as we had the responsibility for closing the state down,” Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania said, “I think we probably have the primary responsibility for opening it up.”

Mr. Wolf and the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island agreed to create a committee of public health officials, economic development officials and their chiefs of staff.

On the West Coast, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington also announced Monday a joint approach to reopening economies that they called a Western States Pact. “Our states will only be effective by working together,” they said in a joint statement.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said he had been in discussions with the other governors to coordinate efforts on the West Coast. He said that on Tuesday he would outline the “California-based thinking” on reopening and promised it would be guided by “facts,” “evidence” and “science.”




Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said that some East Coast states would form a working group to develop a plan for reopening the region.CreditCredit...Peter Foley/EPA, via Shutterstock

The stay-at-home orders that have kept a vast majority of Americans indoors were issued state by state, by their governors <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/10/us/politics/coronavirus-trump-economy.html>. The president did issue nonbinding guidelines urging a pause in daily life through the end of the month.

The potential power struggle threatens widespread confusion if the president and governors end up at loggerheads over how and when to begin resuming some semblance of normal life in the country once the risk of the virus begins to fade sufficiently. Conflicting orders by Washington and state capitals would leave businesses and workers in the untenable position of trying to decide which level of government to listen to when it comes to reopening doors and returning to their jobs.

Several of the governors who spoke on Monday made it clear that they did not intend to let businesses in their states reopen until experts and data suggested it would be safe to do so. They noted that their fates were bound by geography. “The reality is this virus doesn’t care about state borders, and our response shouldn’t either,” Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said he was working closely with the White House on his plan to reopen the state’s businesses. He called for a staggered approach in which businesses that have a minimal impact on the spread of the virus would open up first.

“This is not going to be a rush-the-gates” situation, Mr. Abbott said.

Read the full story on how New York’s top political leaders can’t seem to make peace <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/12/nyregion/schools-cuomo-de-blasio-nyc-coronavirus.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article>. And check out our live coverage on New York <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/nyregion/coronavirus-new-york-update.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage&action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article>.

Trump defends his response and attacks the news media.

President Trump turned Monday’s daily coronavirus task force briefing into an aggressive defense of his own halting response to the pandemic and used a campaign-style video to denounce criticism that he moved too slowly to limit the deadly spread of the virus.

For nearly an hour, Mr. Trump vented his frustration after weekend news reports that his own public health officials were prepared <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/us/politics/coronavirus-trump-response.html> by late February to recommend aggressive social distancing measures, but that the president did not announce them until several weeks later — a crucial delay that allowed the virus to spread.

Mr. Trump broadly mischaracterized an article on his response to the coronavirus, published Sunday in The New York Times, repeatedly insisting that the United States had very few cases of the virus in early January — six weeks earlier — and angrily mocking a suggestion that was never made: that he should have ordered all schools and businesses shut that month.

“I am supposed to close down the greatest economy in the history of the world and we don’t have one case confirmed in the United States?” he said, his voice laced with sarcasm.

Begun as a regular update on the virus by Vice President Mike Pence and the nation’s top public health officials, the daily evening briefing has largely been turned into a lengthy infomercial starring Mr. Trump, who brags about his administration’s efforts, mocks his critics and berates reporters.

But even by those standards, Monday’s briefing stood out. Instead of beginning with his daily recitation of facts about the virus response, the president first introduced Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious diseases specialist, and then delivered a prepared defense of his actions, and an attack on the news reports about  them.

Lashing out at what he called “a fake newspaper” that writes “fake stories,” Mr. Trump lowered the lights in the White House briefing room to play a video showing several Fox News hosts playing down the threat from the virus and governors lauding his actions to help them deal with the crush of hospitalizations.

The video included clips of Mr. Trump taking action to confront the virus, and did not include any of the many instances when the president said the virus was “under control” and would “miraculously disappear” with little effort. It also largely skipped over February and early March, when public health experts say the administration failed to provide enough testing for the virus and did not act quickly enough to promote social distancing and prevent its spread.

Returning to the lectern, Mr. Trump then singled out individual reporters and news organizations — as well as the news media more generally — and declared that “everything we did was right.”

President Trump is in a rush to lift restrictions, convinced that the move will rocket the economy out of a deep recession.

Companies say otherwise. So does a wide variety of economic and survey data, which suggests the economy will recover slowly even after the government begins to ease limits on public gatherings and allow certain restaurants and other closed shops to reopen.

U.S. stocks slipped on Monday, a retreat that followed one of Wall Street’s best weeks in decades, as investors weighed the implications of a deal to cut oil production <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/business/economy/coronavirus-oil-opec-trump.html> and awaited the release of quarterly earnings reports from corporate America. The S&P 500 fell about 1 percent.

The evidence suggests it’s not just stay-at-home orders and other government restrictions that have chilled economic activity in the United States over the last month: It’s also a behavioral response from workers and consumers scared of contracting the virus.

Even in places without lockdown orders, business has suffered, and unemployment has increased because Americans are avoiding restaurants, airports and shopping centers on their own accord.

Even businesses that are in increased demand because of the pandemic are struggling. Quest Diagnostics announced on Monday that it has approved furloughs for more than 4,000 employees — about 9 percent of its work force.

Quest, one of the nation’s largest commercial laboratories for medical testing, said that its recent increase in coronavirus testing has not offset the significant drop in overall testing volume, which it attributed to social distancing guidelines that have led to a reduction in routine medical visits and elective procedures. Total test volume dropped more than 40 percent in the last two weeks of March, the company said.

“None of these changes will impact our ability to deliver critical Covid-19 testing,” Steve Rusckowski, the chief executive of Quest, wrote in an email to colleagues.

Quest said it has performed nearly 800,000 coronavirus tests, and is preparing to begin offering antibody blood tests to identify people who have been exposed to the virus and may have built immunity.

Smithfield Foods said Sunday that its plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., one of the nation’s largest pork processing facilities, would remain closed indefinitely <https://www.smithfieldfoods.com/press-room/company-news/smithfield-foods-to-close-sioux-falls-sd-plant-indefinitely-amid-covid-19> at the urging of the governor and mayor after 293 workers tested positive for the virus.

The plant, which employs 3,700 workers and produces about 130 million servings of food per week, is responsible for about half of the state’s cases.

Meat production workers often work elbow to elbow, cleaning and deboning products in large open areas filled with hundreds of people. The closure at Smithfield follows the halting of production <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/us/coronavirus-chicken-meat-processing-plants-immigrants.html> at several other poultry and meat plants across the country as workers have fallen ill with Covid-19.

Many meat processing facilities have been hit hard by the virus. Three workers have died <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/us/coronavirus-chicken-meat-processing-plants-immigrants.html> at a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Camilla, Ga. Tyson also shut a pork plant in Iowa after an outbreak there among workers. JBS USA, the world’s largest meat processor, confirmed the death of one worker at a Colorado facility and shuttered a plant in Pennsylvania for two weeks.

In a statement announcing the closure, Smithfield’s chief executive warned that the closures were threatening the U.S. meat supply. The shuttered plant produces about 4 percent to 5 percent of the country’s pork, Smithfield said.

A stalemate in Congress over emergency aid seems likely to continue.

Top Democratic leaders on Monday doubled down on their insistence that any infusion of cash for a new loan program to help small businesses affected by the pandemic must include additional funds for state and local governments, hospitals, food assistance and rapid testing.

The demands, reiterated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, are likely to further prolong a stalemate between lawmakers over what was intended to be an interim emergency package before another broader stimulus package.

They came as Democratic leaders announced that the House was pushing back its date for returning to Washington by two weeks, to May 4.

The $2 trillion economic stimulus law enacted last month provided $350 billion for the loan initiative, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, and the administration has said it will soon run out of funds, even as businesses say they have yet to receive a majority of the slated billions.

As of early Monday afternoon, more than 4,600 lenders had been approved for more than $230 billion, according to Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who said there was concern that banks would stop issuing loans if there was not a guarantee that cash would be available from the federal government.


[1] <applewebdata://EB0A0ADC-F62A-4C7B-B75B-CEF6082A19C6#_ftnref1> In this case, some readers have written in to me off list to question whether this what I posted was in fact true, and asking for corroboration.  I've checked back with my source from which I took this, Popular Resistance (https://popularresistance.org/ <https://popularresistance.org/>), and the folks there have confirmed that they have double and triple checked it before posting it.  I've also checked with the author, who I happen to know and have published (and is a very solid and widely respected academic in Brazil), and he stands by it.  And in terms of corroboration, you can take a look at https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/bolsonaro-s-rupture-with-health-minister-emblematic-of-diminishing-stature-1.4223364 <https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/bolsonaro-s-rupture-with-health-minister-emblematic-of-diminishing-stature-1.4223364>, and also this news of a related action, from a Brazilian source : https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Brazil-Judge-Prohibits-Bolsonaro-From-Lifting-Quarantines-20200410-0002.html <https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Brazil-Judge-Prohibits-Bolsonaro-From-Lifting-Quarantines-20200410-0002.html>.  So I think it’s clear that things are happening in Brazil… But if there is anyone out there who can add to this, or comment on it, that would be very welcome.  It’s too important a matter, and possibility, to get wrong.


Jai Sen

Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of Ottawa

jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>
Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded and unsurrendered Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900) 

CURRENT / RECENT publications :

Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance. Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
Jai Sen, ed, 2018b – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ? (Indian edition). New Delhi : AuthorsUpfront, in collaboration with OpenWord and PM Press.  Hard copy available at MOM1AmazonIN <https://www.amazon.in/dp/9387280101/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1522884070&sr=8-2&keywords=movements+of+movements+jai+sen>, MOM1Flipkart <https://www.flipkart.com/the-movements-of-movements/p/itmf3zg7h79ecpgj?pid=9789387280106&lid=LSTBOK9789387280106NBA1CH&marketplace=FLIPKART&srno=s_1_1&otracker=search&fm=SEARCH&iid=ff35b702-e6a8-4423-b014-16c84f6f0092.9789387280106.SEARCH&ppt=Search%20Page>, and MOM1AUpFront <http://www.authorsupfront.com/movements.htm>
Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
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