Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) first suggested that instead of receiving any more federal funding, state and local governments should go bankrupt — which would entail layoffs and pay cuts for firefighters, police, public health officials and other critical personnel. Now comes word that when the Senate returns to the Capitol (the House will not return, on the recommendation of its physician), it will focus “not on the coronavirus but instead on judicial nominations that have long been a priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell," NBC News reports. “McConnell’s decision to bring the Senate back to Washington with no immediate plans to take up additional coronavirus relief legislation has left some members uneasy about traveling when stay-at-home orders remain intact in most states and the congressional attending physician recommends that Congress stay away for now.” You don’t say?

Let’s review where things stand. The economy shrank by 4.8 percent in the first quarter, which includes only a couple of weeks of coronavirus-related disruption. The second quarter’s GDP in all likelihood will look like something from the Great Depression (as much as a 30 percent drop, according to some experts).

The Post also reports, “Spending by Americans tumbled 7.6 percent, and business investment shrank 8.6 percent, according to the Commerce Department report, which gives the first comprehensive look at how painful the economic fallout from the pandemic has been.” We are buying groceries, but not much of anything else. McConnell and Republicans seem to have learned nothing from economic history:

It took three years to climb out of the Great Recession and more than a decade to recover from the Great Depression of the 1930s. Economists say the government was too slow to act and too stingy with aid in the past, mistakes that should not be repeated now.
More than 26 million Americans have already lost their jobs and had to seek unemployment aid. And many businesses are on the verge of going bankrupt since they do not have enough money to sustain weeks without any customers or revenue.

So McConnell’s response to all this is to tell states to go bankrupt and confirm judges just as matters are about to get much worse for state and local employees. (The Post reports: “Some local governments have already started laying off or furloughing thousands of their workers, and the numbers are likely to grow markedly in the absence of federal aid. . . . Between 300,000 and 1 million public-sector workers could soon be out of a job or sent home without pay.”) The only jobs McConnell seems anxious to fill are lifetime federal judges.

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McConnell’s indifference to the burgeoning train wreck in state and local government, we see in poll after poll, is out of sync with voters’ desire for more government involvement and federal aid. The latest Morning Consult poll shows that "74 percent of registered voters, including 84 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans, agreed that the federal government should be responsible for providing financial support to states during the coronavirus pandemic.” Note, that’s 65 percent of Republicans.

It’s not clear this is even popular in Kentucky, where McConnell is standing for reelection. The University of Kentucky is already laying off and furloughing employees, and the state assembly is cutting libraries and forgoing raises for public K-12 teachers. In Louisville, which faces a $115 million budget shortfall, “The mayor said businesses losing money are not paying the amount of tax expected, many employees have also been laid off or furloughed which takes a cut at the largest portion of budget revenues. ... If no solution is worked out by October 1, the mayor said they will have to consider [laying] off about 1,000 city employees which equals about 20% of all city workers.”

His Democratic opponent, Amy McGrath, is pummeling McConnell for his willingness to bail out large corporations but not his state’s teachers, firefighters, health-care workers, etc.:

One wonders how Republican incumbents already facing tough reelection races (e.g. Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona) are going to explain this to laid-off first responders, teachers, nurses at city hospitals, librarians and others. Even if McConnell tried, it would be hard to come up with a position and set of priorities more likely to enrage his members’ constituents.

By trying to reassign seats in the White House briefing room, the Trump administration is attempting to stifle real journalism, says media critic Erik Wemple. (The Washington Post)

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