with Brent D. Griffiths
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FINDING THE LOST GENERATION: During the despair of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt established ambitious federally funded jobs programs directly aimed at buoying young people.
Now, in the midst of the historic coronavirus pandemic, there’s a growing consensus among lawmakers and policy wonks that young millennials and their Generation Z counterparts need the same kind of aggressive government boost. But historians doubt that any government intervention of the kind that helped lift a generation of young people out of poverty in the 1930s would be workable today.
Conspicuously left out of the $2 trillion stimulus package, most high school seniors and many college students are not eligible for broad financial assistance from the government to help them dig out of the pandemic’s economic hole. Brent and I wrote more about the challenges facing young people in the coronavirus economy here.
- Those over 16 and older college students were barred from receiving stimulus checks provided either to their parents on their behalf, or to them directly if their parents claim them as dependents.
- Young people also lack of access to broader economic benefits like relief from staggering student loan debt from private providers, health care and unemployment insurance for those who have yet to enter the job market.
In an interview with Power Up, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called for any new stimulus package to include additional relief for student debt, stimulus money for high school and college students, and the creation of a federal program that would give young people not bound for college a free, post-high school certificate.
- “I think we forget how vulnerable young folks are,” Khanna told us. “Their needs might not be as visible or immediate as someone who has a business they’ve spent 25 years building or people literally having trouble putting food on the table. But we can’t have another generation lost in terms of accessing the American Dream.”
- “When you see the 2008 financial crisis, now compounded by this current crisis — you run the risk of having a generation or possibly two that feel the American Dream is slipping away from that and that’s something we have to address.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who has been an unlikely champion of massive federal relief for American workers throughout the coronavirus crisis, is rolling out new legislation this week that would bar the Department of Education from providing universities with large endowments with federal relief money unless they spend some of the funding “to help their students and cover costs of this emergency. ”
I’m tired of hearing from university execs that “it wouldn’t be prudent” to tap their endowments in this crisis. Fine. But don’t come begging federal taxpayers for money while you sit on billions in endowment funds and students suffer— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) April 22, 2020
By the numbers: A Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll found voters aged 18 to 34, many of whom work in the gig economy, are more likely to be laid off during the pandemic than any other age group. And the pandemic is likely to exacerbate existing debt and housing affordability issues.
- Already, 57 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds carry debt and 63 percent of young adults under the age of 30 are concerned about the impact housing costs will have on their future, according to a new Harvard Youth Poll released on Thursday.
- 85 percent of young Americans favor some form of student debt relief, per the poll.
- Under the stimulus, student loan recipients get some relief as federal student payments have been suspended between March 13 and Sept. 30 without penalties. However, private student loan borrowers do not have to give borrowers the same break.
Bad luck: In some ways, history is already repeating itself for older millennials born in the 1980s and 1990s, and for their younger peers following in their footsteps. Saddled with debt, no longer successively wealthier than their parents, and victims of stagnant wages, financial turmoil has been a hallmark of modern young adulthood — the pandemic marks the third major crisis rocking their career and educational prospects after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis.
During the Great Depression, the increase in unemployment rate was greatest for young Americans: between 1930 and 1940 it skyrocketed by 251 percent for 14 to 24-year-olds. And the government took a proactive role in trying to mitigate it. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt expressing the angst over what become of the nation’s future said in 1934, “I have moments of real terror when I think we might be losing this generation.”
- Two of the popular and ambitious programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal were the Civilian Conservation Corps established in 1933 and the National Youth Administration that followed two years later.
- The CCC put over three million unemployed, unmarried young men, who had largely dropped out of high school, to work its eight year span in Roosevelt’s so-called “Tree Army.”
- The NYA, which was launched by executive order, provided employment opportunities for young women, along with financial assistance for students to continue or finish their education.
Another successful government program targeted at young men was the post-World War II GI Bill, which provided veterans with tuition to start or continue college, a cost of living stipend, unemployment benefits, job counseling, guaranteed loans to purchase homes or start businesses and more. It resulted in an economic boon, according to Suzanne Kahn, a deputy director at the Roosevelt Institute.
- “I think that the problem is even in the best case scenario where you get a job — if you’re entering the job market at this moment, it’ll take 20 or 40 years for your wages to be where they’d be if you entered the job market at a better moment,” said Kahn. She said that will make it harder for young people to save for retirement or buy their first homes, both signs of “American adulthood.”
Historians who have studied the New Deal’s treatment of young Americans doubt massive programs like the CCC and NYA could be replicated in today’s political climate.
- “If there is any kind of impulse now for anything even resembling the public works programs of the New Deal, I don’t see it and anything like the CCC is particularly far off to me,” said Benjamin F. Alexander, who teaches American history at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn and authored a book about the Civilian Conservation Corps.
- “People in the 1930s by necessity felt a need to be open to experimentation and experimentation with extraordinary powers for the federal government. The whole idea of the federal government organizing a public works project on a massive scale is an out of the ordinary role. In this day and age, it would take a popular ground-swelling — and that wasn’t what was seen in the New Deal. ”
At The White House
SCIENTISTS TOE THE LINE UNDER TRUMP: It was a bad day yesterday for Trump administration scientists who are trying to be candid with Americans about what may be coming in our future under the novel coronavirus and how to treat it.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield did not retract a statement to The Post angering Trump that a “second wave” of the virus could be “more difficult” and that Trump's calls to “LIBERATE!” certain states from stay-at-home orders were “not helpful.”
- Rick Bright, who led the Health and Human Services agency responsible for developing a coronavirus vaccine, was demoted after pressing for scientific evidence to prove the worth of medicines Trump repeatedly touted to fight the virus.
- Oh, and HHS head Alex Azar tapped a former Labradoodle breeder, Brian Harrison, to handle his department's virus response.
That made yesterday's White House briefing was something to behold: “The remarkable spectacle provided another illustration of the president’s tenuous relationship with his own administration’s scientific and public health experts, where the unofficial message from the Oval Office is an unmistakable warning: Those who challenge the president’s erratic and often inaccurate coronavirus views will be punished — or made to atone,” Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lena H. Sun report.
There's “a culture in which public health officials find themselves scrambling to appease and placate Trump,” our colleagues write.
- That includes fielding inquires from all different sources: “An internal White House ‘Covid Mail’ email address, for instance, exists to receive queries and suggestions from ‘friends and family’ as well as random individuals — including doctors and business owners — from around the country who have reached out to White House officials,” our colleagues write. “Those emails then get farmed out to the appropriate agencies — from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Health and Human Services — but some officials have privately worried that these missives receive priority and distract from more crucial scientific pursuits.”
- Key stat: According to a Post analysis of the daily briefings, “since the federal guidelines were announced on March 16, Trump has spoken 63 percent of the time, compared with Birx at 10 percent and Fauci at 5 percent."
As for Bright: “The official who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said … that he was removed from his post after he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by [Trump] as a coronavirus treatment, and that the administration had put ‘politics and cronyism ahead of science,’” the New York Times's Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman report.
- More details: “[Bright] was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of [HHS's] Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health,” the Times reports.
- Bright's scorching statement: “I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in his statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”
- Here we go: Bright has obtained the counsel of two lawyers who work with whistleblowers and represented Christine Blasey Ford.
Outside the Beltway
HEALTH EXPERTS WARN STATES OF REOPENING TOO SOON: “As several states — including South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida — rush to reopen businesses, the sudden relaxation of restrictions will supply new targets for the coronavirus that has kept the United States largely closed down, according to experts, math models and the basic rules that govern infectious diseases,” William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Joel Achenbach report.
Part of the problem is there's no easy answer for what comes next: That's especially due to “a continued lack of testing, contact tracing and detailed guidance from federal health agencies, disease experts said. Instead, every state will conduct its own improvised experiment with thousands of lives in the balance,” our colleagues write.
- Key quote: “For a while, people were told all we need is to get past the peak. Then, they started hearing all we need is testing. Meanwhile, the president keeps telling everyone that things are going to reopen in a matter of weeks,” Michael T. Osterholm, a University of Minnesota infectious-disease expert told our colleagues. “The way you prepare people for a sprint and marathon are very different. As a country, we are utterly unprepared for the marathon ahead.”
Trump even attacked a political ally for being too hasty: “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia, they're incredible people,” Trump told reporters. Kemp is allowing gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys, among other businesses, to reopen Friday provided they follow social distancing guidelines and screen their employees.
- Kemp did not directly respond to the criticism: Kemp, in a series of tweets, said he spoke with Trump and he “appreciate[d] his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times. Kemp stressed that his decision was “driven by data” even though the state has not met all of the White House's guidelines for reopening.
- Fauci's plea: “If I were advising the governor, I would tell him that he should be careful,” Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told reporters. “I would advise him not to just turn the switch on and go because there is a danger of a rebound. And I know there's the desire to move ahead quickly.”
The uncomfortable truth: Rebounds will occur as the virus keeps spreading when unaffected Americans begin to venture out more, our colleagues write. “Epidemiological models suggest the best strategy for keeping the burn rate under control is to drive the number of infections as low as possible before restoring economic activity. That would then provide time to react if cases flare.”
- And reopening specific things may be even trickier than we imagined: “A recent case study — published by the CDC — examined how a single patron infected nine others at an air-conditioned restaurant in China,” our colleagues write, illustrating that reopening restaurants will be more complicated than just distancing patrons and worrying about how food is prepared.
- Just look at the other countries that have tried: “For months, Singapore has served as an exemplar, with its pandemic response praised and emulated around the world. Despite its proximity to China and early cases, Singapore used massive testing and contact tracing to keep its disease curve flat,” our colleagues write. “Those painstaking efforts kept schools and businesses open and its economy afloat — until this month, when the virus found and exploited a weak point: low-wage migrant workers living in densely packed dormitories.”
A virus resurgence could also exacerbate an economic downturn: “A W-shaped recovery means the economy starts looking better and then there’s a second downturn later this year or next. It could be triggered by reopening the economy too quickly and seeing a second spike in deaths from covid-19,” Heather Long reports.
- But there are other risks too: “A wave of bankruptcies and defaults later this year. As companies go belly up, a domino effect ensues: Workers aren’t rehired, suppliers aren’t paid, and fear rises about who will be next to fall,” our colleague writes.
FORGET WHATEVER YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE ELECTION: “The economic and political impact of the coronavirus crisis is beginning to reverberate across the presidential battleground states, creating unforeseen red-state opportunities for Joe Biden but also offering promise for [Trump] in several Democratic-leaning states where his prospects once seemed limited,” Politico's David Siders reports.
- Where Biden is trending up: “In the industrial Midwestern states that unexpectedly flipped to Trump in 2016, Democrats have more cause than ever to believe they can win back states such as Wisconsin and Michigan,” Politico reports. “A senior Biden campaign official said the campaign sees a widening path into states with high numbers of working-class voters and people of color, such as Arizona and Georgia, noting unemployment claims that have hit Georgia particularly hard.”
- Where Trump is optimistic: “Of the states that Trump lost in 2016, Trump’s campaign and his allies have suggested that he could flip Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire or Minnesota this year,” Politico reports. “A Dartmouth College-UNH Survey Center New Hampshire Covid-19 study found New Hampshire residents without college degrees were more likely to have lost a job or have had their hours reduced as a result of the coronavirus — and placed a greater emphasis on restarting the economy than maintaining social distancing.”
AND HERE'S JO … E BIDEN?: Without the normal prime-time TV slots that would carry his speeches and facing mostly blanket TV coverage Trump receives for his daily coronavirus briefings, “[Biden has been left with] little choice but to spread his message around — bracketing the president by offering himself to local newscasts in battleground states that run his interviews while viewers wait for Trump’s briefings and hamming it up on radio or late night (or late, late night) TV,” Annie Linskey reports.
Pay attention to his audiences: “Biden’s appearances tend toward relatable and soft, in contrast to Trump’s more contentious evening performances. But they also aim at groups of voters that Biden must attract to win in November, including suburbanites, younger voters and nonwhite voters,” our colleague writes.
- And here's what's happening in your neck of the woods: “Biden’s local television appearances are designed not to compete with Trump but to slide onto the airwaves ahead of the president … The choice of outlets was obvious — Biden spoke directly to audiences in the three usually Democratic states that Trump breached when he won the 2016 election."
In the Media
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
When will the DMV reopen?: “Efforts to ramp up testing, tracing and protective equipment are underway. Area officials say they hope to start to reopen the economy some time in May. At the same time, none of the benchmarks are close to being reached,” Antonio Olivo reports in a story the details the various metrics Washington-area leaders want to meet before slowly easing back their restrictions.
McConnell favors letting states declare bankruptcy: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "favors allowing states struggling with high public employee pension costs amid the burdens of the pandemic response to declare bankruptcy rather than giving them a federal bailout,” Bloomberg's Steven T. Dennis and William Selway report.
- McConnell's staff later called such money “blue state bailouts": “The phrase suggested that the top Senate Republican was singling out for scorn some of the hardest-hit, heavily Democratic states such as California, Illinois and New York,” the Times's Carl Hulse reports.
- That has not gone over well: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said it was “one of the dumb statements of all time.” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) called it “utterly irresponsible.” Then Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who is known for not mincing words in criticism of fellow Republicans, joined in.
...cops, firefighters and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate.— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) April 23, 2020
RoomRater, a Twitter account that has sprung up during the pandemic to critique the Zoom and Skype backgrounds of those giving public interviews, did not like Chris Christie's aesthetics: