K12 equal access, Trump meltdown, pandemic policies, Biden’s picks. Charles Ballard on the pandemic economy.

March 23, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, March 23, 2020

Cover image:  Fauci facepalm

  In this episode:

  • Public education = equal access or no credit
  • Another Trump meltdown – “You're a terrible reporter!”
  • Governor Whitmer's executive orders re: Covid-19 pandemic
  • Ballot initiatives suffer under social distancing
  • 2020 Primary, Biden VP and SCOTUS promises
  • Dr Charles Ballard on the pandemic economy
  • Transcript


Jump to:

Public education = equal access or no credit

“State law limits us in this situation ... The state legislature should change state law to permit days out of school for this public health emergency to be counted as instructional days.' ~Dr Michael Rice, https://bit.ly/33DNwo2 @mieducation @freep #COVID19 #K12 #MiLegClick To Tweet
Only those districts and schools that can ensure that all students have equitable access to quality learning opportunities should pursue a full transition to online learning.' @mieducation @detroitnews https://bit.ly/2U98EQ8 #k12Click To Tweet
Under the current conditions, the legislature should make clear in law that the school year will not be extended into the summer,' ~Dr Michael Rice, https://bit.ly/33DNwo2 @mieducation @freep #COVID19 #K12 #MiLegClick To Tweet
'Not every district has the ability to offer programming in the same way ... It's not fair to allow districts w/resources to count days and other districts w/o resources not qualify to count those days.' ~@casandraulbrich https://bit.ly/2vFj0h5 @mieducation #MiLeg @DetroitNews Click To Tweet




Another Trump meltdown – “You're a terrible reporter!”

'..there was this epidemic rising in eastern China. And the Chinese who are pretty good at controlling their own population couldn’t get it under control. And that seemed very ominous to me' ~@TuckerCarlson https://lat.ms/2U9n2Yw Click To Tweet



Governor Whitmer's executive orders re: Covid-19 pandemic



Ballot initiatives suffer under social distancing






2020 Primary, Biden VP and SCOTUS promises


“I think it’s necessary for it to be a woman and I prefer an African-American woman.' ~@WhipClyburn https://politi.co/39cS5qP @JoeBiden #BidenVPPick @MichelleObama @KamalaHarrisClick To Tweet

Dr Charles Ballard on the pandemic economy

'It's already bad. I think we don't know how bad it's going to get, but we do know that it's going to get worse... This is unprecedented in our lifetime. ' ~@CBallardMSUEcon #COVID19 Click To Tweet
Econ forecasting models show that Q2 GDP will drop 4% at best, 12% at worst. That's just 1 quarter. Compared to the 2007-2008 Great Recession where GDP dropped by 4% over a year. @CBallardMSUEcon #COVID19 Click To Tweet
If this #pandemic is a one-off, then people will go back to doing what they used to. But if this is a permanent or frequently recurring disaster, that may lead to some permanent restructuring of our economy. ~@CBallardMSUEcon #COVID19Click To Tweet
Running big #deficits when times are good is not a good idea, because when times go bad, we may end up with so much debt out there that interest rates go up. I don't want to be Argentina or Mexico. @CBallardMSUEcon #COVID19 Click To Tweet
Once we get past #COVID19 I hope we get to a balanced budget, but there's not a political appetite for raising taxes or cutting spending. ~@CBallardMSUEcon Click To Tweet
There are limits to fiscal policy .. a payroll tax cut gives people some add'l spending $, but where are they going to spend it? ... The most important thing is for the feds to get the virus under control. ~@CBallardMSUEcon #COVID19Click To Tweet
For weeks we could see there was a problem coming, @realdonaldtrump was pretending there was no problem. Then failures at @cdcgov and @US_FDA, if not for that, #COVID19 would be a smaller problem. ~@CBallardMSUEconClick To Tweet
If we had enough test kits we would know who to quarantine and everyone else could go about the daily lives. What we need is a scalpel but all we have is the sledgehammer of telling everyone to stay home. ~@CBallardMSUEcon @COVID19Click To Tweet
.@GovWhitmer has had very little cooperation from #MiLeg, and the state needs are mushrooming and the capacity of state gov. is shrinking due to #COVID19 #pandemic economic effects ~@CBallardMSUEcon Click To Tweet


Walt Sorg 0:00
The presenting underwriter of the Michigan Policast is Progress Michigan, providing a strong, credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable and assist in the promotion of progressive ideas.

Gretchen Whitmer 0:13
I want to be very clear, there's been a lot of misinformation and rumors floating around. I'm asking for funding for our national guardsmen and guards women to help distribute food and supplies, humanitarian missions. I am not calling for martial law. That is a rumor. And that is false. And it is dangerous for people to foment fear and bad information

Walt Sorg 0:43
as the pandemic spreads, so to do the rumors, fanned on by social media, and a president who continues to lie, even as he tries to lead the nation through the crisis. This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and policy and the outside forces impacting our pleasant peninsulas, I'm Walt Sorg podcasting in place from Lansing. And for the first time ever Christine, my NCAA bracket is still perfect in March.

Christine Barry 1:09
Well, I am Christine Barry at the other end of the internet connection in the countryside just outside of Corunna. And like every year I don't participate in that NCAA thing so

Walt Sorg 1:20
well congratulations, you're now in the majority

Christine Barry 1:23
A most boring sport to me. The State Board of Education ignites a bit of a storm by saying homeschooling won't count. And in case you forgotten there's still a presidential campaign out there. Joe Biden promising a woman as Vice President and an African American woman on the Supreme Court and will be wildly speculating on those possibilities

Walt Sorg 1:46
and will devote a fair share of the discussion this week to the parallel crisis facing all Americans. The Trump depression, jobs are disappearing by the millions virtually overnight. I'll talk with Michigan State University economist Dr. Charles Ballard about The collapse of our economy and the prospects for recovery.

Christine, let's start with the rather surprising and controversial announcement from the State Department of Education that educating our kids with all the schools shut down, doesn't count. You're a member of your local school board and right in the middle of all of this, what is going on?

Christine Barry 2:39
Well, what's most surprising to me Walt, is that people are surprised by this because any school that receives public funding so this is public schools, obviously, and charter schools, not private schools, like Catholic and the like, but schools that get public funding have to abide by certain rules. They have to have Roughly 1100 hours of instructional time per year for each student, and all students have to have equal access to that instructional time. And in addition to that, you have other little directives, like the teachers have to be able to deliver the curriculum in a competent way, silly little things like that. There are several considerations here. Some districts are able to do this. They have a district where all of the students have internet, they all have devices, they all have teachers who have received training in online instruction, that type of thing. My district certainly is not one of those we have. Well, we're in the double digits in terms of students who don't have internet access. We have students who have additional learning requirements that we simply cannot meet, even if they have internet access. So those students wouldn't get equal access to the instructional time and therefore we cannot count that instructional time for Anybody toward that 1100 hours of time per year for each student. So students and parents who, you know, they're upset I understand students and parents, but also some school personnel because they're working hard to make sure that at home students continue to learn, they don't get out of any sort of good habits they've got, they don't get out of routines they have and obviously they don't want the year the school year to extend too far into the summer. Because you're looking at like getting out close to July 4. That's not gonna work for a lot of people because the families who intend to go on vacation will go regardless of whether, you know the kids should be in school or not. And then schools risk not having enough students in school for that to count as instructional time either. So to me, this is not a surprise and I am actually more surprised that people think it's controversial

Walt Sorg 4:54
when the governor so she's dismayed by the decision. And as a parent, she's dismayed to whatever kids is a senior in High School. What does this mean for the high school seniors? Do they not graduate this spring,

Christine Barry 5:05
what the Michigan Association of School Boards has requested as well as the Michigan association of superintendents and administrators. We've asked the legislature to forgive the school days that were not in session, because of the governor's orders. We've asked that those be forgiven, so that they won't have to count. Like we don't have to make those days up. And we've asked that the staff be paid during that time anyway, this could have been done easily because the school aid bill is still in play in the Senate. So we wanted forgiveness of those school days so that the kids would not have to participate in instructional time and make this up.

Walt Sorg 5:43
If it's not forgiven that as a school district run the risk of losing some of its state aid.

Christine Barry 5:47
Yes, it does. Because if you extend the school year to a point where more than 25% of the students simply won't attend because it's in the summer and the families are taking them somewhere that school Who's the funding for that? It won't count as a as a day towards that 1100 hours. There are a lot of issues with this. Now I understand people are working hard trying to make this work for their students. But what I don't get, and I'm surprised that the governor said she was dismayed because she of all people should understand it's a legislative issue. This is the law, you have to provide equal access to all students now she has called for additional funding to help close some of these gaps in the digital divide there, but that still would not have been enough funding. If she had gotten the budget she wanted, you still wouldn't have been able to roll out equal access to all students before this emergency. And you know, some of these some of these students need special technology that's really only available at the facility is that expensive.

PSA 6:51
COVID-19, better known as Coronavirus has spread throughout the world. There are a few ways to help lower the spread of this respiratory disease. Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face including mouth, nose and eyes. Cover your coughs and sneezes, monitor your symptoms and consult with your doctor. Stay at home and away from other sick people except for medical care, clean and disinfect high touch surfaces. For more information, please visit cdc.gov/covid19. Thank you.

Walt Sorg 7:28
The challenge of the crisis has been made greater by the Great Pumpkin. Donald Trump has done his best to transform his daily briefings on federal government actions and inactions into campaign events complete with the usual plethora of lies, as well as as usual attacks on political opponents in the media. His biggest hissy fit of the week was aimed at NBC Peter Alexander.

Peter Alexander 7:50
Americans were scared though I guess, nearly 200 dead 14,000 you're sick millions as you witness who are scared right now. What do you say to Americans who are watching you Right now, you're scared.

Donald Trump 8:01
I say that you're a terrible reporter. That's what I say. I think it's a very nasty question. And I think it's a very bad signal that you're putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers, and they're looking for hope. And you're doing sensationalism. And the same with NBC and Concast, I don't know. I don't like Comcast. I like Concast. Let me just have you work. Let me just say something that's really bad reporting.

Walt Sorg 8:29
There's a perfectly good question, a perfectly legitimate question. In fact, Alexander later called it a softball question, that kind of question that any politician could turn into a positive statement of hope and conviction. But it had its roots in the fact that Trump has repeatedly spouted bs at these briefings, saying things so flat out wrong, that his underlings had to figure out how to correct him without sparking another eruption. All sorts of things I must have. By the way, I've got a little bit of a conflict of interest here. Purely coincidentally, Peter Alexander's mother. was one of my friends in both grade school in high school back in Illinois. The worst with Trump has been his overstatements about progress. No, we don't have all the test kits that are needed. No, there's no immediate prospect for filling the huge void and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers or for ventilators. No, the two military hospital ships won't be available anytime soon. And no a drug used to treat malaria. isn't the miracle treatment for Cova 19 even though our stable genius says he thinks it'll work, or maybe it won't, all those from a clown who gives himself a perfect grade for dealing with the crisis, a crisis he denied even existed until a couple of weeks ago,

Donald Trump 9:39
I'd rate it a 10. I think we've done a great job. Okay.

Christine Barry 9:43
Well, Trump can't resist any opportunity to attack the media. And I think that he was feeling kind of squeezed and under pressure. You know, he's not good at reassuring the nation. He never has been. He is good at attacking the The media, because if not for the media, then the nation would be fine. And that is just his MO. You know, it reminds me a little bit of how he's pushing all of this on China as well. There is no question that closed societies in places like China don't give out information freely. But the fact of the matter is this country was not prepared. And it was not prepared because of Donald Trump's decisions, or the decisions of the people around him who were incompetent. It doesn't really matter to me. It's, you know, the buck stops with him. And that didn't have anything to do with China. He was not China's fault that he dismantled that organization, the pandemic response team, it is not China's fault that we did not act on the intelligence that we got in January. None of that is China's fault. This is what he does. He deflects he he attacks people, just like he did with Alexander. They're going after him for what was indeed a softball question. That every president would have answered with. Look, I know you're scared. But you don't have to be you just have to follow the precautions and we're in this together, and America will prevail. Or,

Walt Sorg 11:13
Mike Pence did it later at the same news coverage. Peter Alexander as Mike Pence the exact same question. Pence handled it properly, making pretty much the kind of statement you just did. What I find frightening with the President and his so called leadership for this whole situation is I believe that he believes he's really is doing a great job. And you couple his incredible narcissism with his increasingly incredible lack of knowledge and basic leadership capabilities. And it's a really dangerous combination because he thinks he's doing a great job. He thinks he's doing all the right things. And if you tell him he's not he just lashes out because he knows how great he is.

Christine Barry 11:50
Well, and that self talk that he does, I think we've done a great job. I've been right a lot. I'm a smart guy. It's snowballing into like, it's It's feeding itself. So he's becoming more confident with his hunches. It's clear I think David Axelrod talked about this the other night on CNN, it's clear that there was a strategy discussion to flip Trump from there's no problem to we have a crisis we have to take seriously. But you still have him using that language that everything is fine. I'm in charge. I'm a smart guy. I feel I feel I feel

Walt Sorg 12:25
and what's even more frightening is his, his people believe him. He's got now about a 45 50% approval rating on his handling of the crisis meeting. There's a lot of people out there and I see it on social media. I see it in my own family, even in my extended family. They believe him when he says that you don't have to do some of these things that were taking care of it and they're still out there. They're still out there trying to shop and they're out there in the world not taking this as seriously as they might and putting not just themselves at risk. We're putting all of us at risk.

Christine Barry 12:54
Trump's handling it that seems really high. He came right out and said well, we're not a shipping company or something when people were asking for supplies, I mean, the guy is just a child.

Walt Sorg 13:06
One polling that I was looking at was done by axios. And it was done online, though. It's a survey monkey poll that they did. And they found that most of the trust of the US people was in the CDC, the NIH state health department's local offices of emergency management in the World Health Organization. 42% overall, said they trust President Trump to protect Americans from a major outbreak. Now, yeah, that is a minority. But still, that is a huge number. And republicans 84% said they have more trust in President Trump than they do at any local national or international organization staffed with experts who are trained to manage public health crises. That is a very, very dangerous number.

Christine Barry 13:48
Well it's a dangerous number. And I think it just proves to you that Republicans are in no way capable of any kind of leadership through crisis. I mean, right remember right after 911 Confidence in George Bush to keep the country safe soared? Why? Why? You know, just it's just feelings because of the kind of language they're using. Now, look, you had mentioned governors stepping up, this is probably a good time to talk about where governors have filled the void at the federal level in terms of leadership, but look at our own governor Whitmer, who has just been working like crazy with executive orders and leadership. She ended and by the way, well, this is her second statewide emergency in two years.

Walt Sorg 14:35
Last year's crisis, which we've probably forgotten about by now was the incredible cold in the middle of winter coupled with a breakdown in the supply chain for natural gas and we were on the verge of not being able to keep Michigan warm, and we had wind chills at 50 below. That seems like an eternity ago, but it was only about 13 months ago.

Christine Barry 14:54
And look at how she handled that with an appropriate diplomatic response. That harnessed all of the state and local resources that she could pull in as well as the private sector. And I think you're seeing something similar this time around as well. And she's so proactive. I really appreciated this, you remember, she opened the or she activated the State Emergency Operations Center in February, before I even got here just to get ready for it. I think some of these things are just not appreciated to the extent that they should be. But if you look at some of these executive orders, the most recent ones banned the public gatherings of more than 50 people, a lot of people don't like that. But there there are exceptions for healthcare facilities, some workplaces that have no exposure to the public, the state legislature could work but they adjourned mass transit, that kind of thing. One of the exceptions was religious services, which I think was kind of throwing people a bone so that they leave her alone so she can do her work and not get caught up in some argument over whether people can go to church. That was one of them. She expanded unemployment benefits to 26 weeks. That's huge for people. She shut down beauty parlors, which is just a shame for me, because I spent so much time there, salons, tanning salons, bars, restaurants, that kind of thing.

Walt Sorg 16:16
Bars is a problem.

Christine Barry 16:19
Okay suspending non essential medical and dental work. Not so much flattening the curve, but it kind of relieving some of the workload of our health professionals. They're suspending evictions and foreclosures, allowing public bodies to hold electronic meetings, rather than meet in person which by the way, Mike Shirky came out with a statement opposed to that was an ignorant thing for him to do, because he said people need more access to officials rather than less thinking that electronic meetings would mean less access to officials. public officials are always available by email, by phone, whatever. There was just like legitimately no way for my board to meet. If we couldn't meet on zoom or something.

Walt Sorg 17:05
I'm the same way about that. I'm on our city's public service board, which is a very minor minor operation. But I guarantee if we couldn't meet online, we wouldn't meet at all, because we're not going to take the risk.

Christine Barry 17:15
Yeah, exactly. And, you know, it's our you know, how it is, it's your responsibility to do the work that you were elected to do. And I simply am not going to be able to do it legally if I don't have this kind of capability. So I appreciated that. And she suspended some state regulations on healthcare facilities so that they could ramp up capacity. I think she's been just so proactive. I think she's been open to input I really appreciate the way that she's, she's managing this, this gray space. You know, where where you have the unknown, and I'll say it again while we were a couple of weeks ago when when she announced the closure of the schools. The superintendents just in our county, were frantically communicating late at night, like, what are you going to do? What are you going to do try to figure out whether or not to close. And she made the decision for them so that they didn't have to. And I think that that was a good thing. A lot of people will say, Well, you know, she left it up to the local Well, no, it's a state emergency. Thank you to Governor Whitmer for making that decision so that our superintendents didn't have to go round and round, and then they could move forward with the other things that they have to do during the emergency.

Walt Sorg 18:30
And I'm going to do something I rarely do. And let's say something nice about the Speaker of the House Leach Chatfield. He has said governor Whitmer, a letter basically saying, hey, there's even more things that you can do through executive order. And even though the legislature should do it under normal times, these aren't normal times. So please go ahead and do this by executive order and I'll have your back. Things like letting workers collect unemployment, it's still work part time, extending jobless benefits to independent contractors a big deal in this gig economy, accelerating Spending license requirements for health care workers to respond to the emergency and allowing Canadian doctors to practice in the state. So my hat's off to a speaker Lee Chatfield for basically saying this is a good idea. He said in his letter, many of these reforms would normally be pursued through legislative action and the passage of bills, but the immediate need a response with constitutional limits on the speed of the legislature have led us to offer these ideas to you and request their implementation through executive action. Good move.

Christine Barry 19:27
Well, that's a very human thing to do. And I was not expecting that.

Walt Sorg 19:33
She also managed to find some time to deal with Michigan manufacturers to fill some of the voids that have been left through the federal inaction.

Gretchen Whitmer 19:41
I've also been in discussion with several business leaders across our state, about their companies, perhaps helping us manufacturer some of the things that we are short things like ventilators and gowns and masks and personal protection equipment. Yesterday, we did announce that copper craft distillery in West Michigan is going to produce and donate 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to healthcare providers in the area next week. Dow is working on manufacturing solutions to and superior business solutions and I met boom rod at GDI integrated facility services have stepped up to get more masks to our state. They're all contributing to help communities across the state of Michigan and we are grateful.

Walt Sorg 20:31
What I found really intriguing over the weekend is you had the leaders of the two largest business organizations in Michigan basically come out against having a shelter in place order from the governor shutting the state down, even though she said quite categorically she wasn't going to be doing that. But they're trying to get ahead of the curve because it is a possibility. And Jen chair the former lieutenant governor labeled that kind of showboating on their part on Facebook. It's a real problem, though for businesses to the idea that they are going to have to show down so many of them and it's also really important to point out there's a lot of them that simply can't shut down there are a lot of heroes out there that are keeping our economy from collapsing our society from collapsing completely think in terms of the utility workers that are keeping the power on that are keeping our water purification systems going basically just keeping our infrastructure operating as well as of course the people that are working in the grocery stores and in the supply chain for food the health care workers, the public safety people, you know people like you and me we can just kind of hunker down at home and we're pretty much okay but those people are out there the delivery people can you imagine not being able to get deliveries?

Christine Barry 21:37
That's really how I'm I'm getting most of my groceries is by delivery but you know, and a shout out to the sanitation workers the garbage truck people. Can you imagine if they just stopped picking up garbage? I mean, what doesn't that happen when they go on strike look at how unsanitary it is and how unhealthy and I don't think she's even indicated a shelter in place policy. And I do understand that business communities would be opposed to it. But I got the impression This was more about trying to be relevant and have a voice at a time when it really just wasn't. It wasn't necessary. It wasn't really speaking to any issues that were on the table. It would be tough to do shelter in place, and I think that we're already doing a lot and there's no reason to think right now that we are under responding.

PSA 22:36
COVID-19, better known as Coronavirus has spread throughout the world. Symptoms of this respiratory disease may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may show up two to 14 days after exposure. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have come into contact or are in an area with an ongoing outbreak, please call a hotline and or consult with a physician Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces. For more information, please visit cdc.gov/covid19. Thank you.

Walt Sorg 23:12
The pandemic is also having a direct impact on democracy in this state. First of all to statewide petition drives have had a direct impact as a result of the pandemic with two different responses. The valid drive to change Michigan's lobbying laws that's being led by progress. Michigan has been basically called off they're going to continue working on it, but now their target is the 2022 election. The other ballot committee that is out there actively is the one that is trying to amend the state civil rights law to provide protections for the state's LGBTQ citizens. That is called the fair and equal Michigan ballot committee. I am a part of that I'm working on that campaign. And the decision that was made by the people running that campaign is we're going to continue but we've completely transformed the campaign instead of the normal going to large events. And even going door to door to collect signatures for the petitions, we need 340,000 plus valid signatures to get it on the valid, obviously can't do that anymore. So what they're doing basically is a viral campaign. I hate to use the word viral in these circumstances. But that's exactly what it is asking people to go online and request a petition circulated in the small group of people that they still communicate with on a daily basis that the people they're seeing their immediate family, and perhaps if they're still working their co workers, get some signatures, toss it into a postage paid envelope and mail it back. That is quite a huge lift, because it means getting basically 50 60,000 people mobilized to do something that doesn't come naturally. And also just to get the information out there. We will have a link of course on the website. Why don't we Christine so people can get those petitions?

Christine Barry 24:51
Absolutely. And I meant to ask you, how does that impact your budget? Is that expensive.

Walt Sorg 24:58
The cost if you're hiring professionals to collect signatures which most ballot committees do. Virtually all of them do voters, not politicians with the exception. Those signatures cost about $4-5 each, to the people that are organizing a petition drive, the cost to mail out a package with two petitions, instructions, and a business reply envelope should yield signatures that cost less per signature than having a professional circulator out there, getting signatures, but still, it is pretty expensive to do. And it does rely on people everybody getting 2,3,4,5,10 signatures and sending them back and not having a lot of petitions that go out there to people who just change their mind. It's a gamble, but it really right now it seems like the only option because quite honestly, the volunteers are not willing to go out there anymore, and we're sterilized plus, who's going to where are they going to go? Where are you going to find a large people to sign petitions.

Christine Barry 25:56
There was a third ballot initiative that was supposed to get started. This year the graduated income tax that hasn't even they didn't even get started yet. They did ask for that, that the law be changed so that they can collect electronic signatures, and that's never gonna happen.

Walt Sorg 26:10
No, all these valid drives are basically issues that are posed by the Republican legislature so that I couldn't do anything. I don't think to make it easier. What is really ironic about this current situation is we did have a ballot campaign in 2018. That was successful that would have forced a vote on having paid sick leave expanded in Michigan, and the republicans of the legislature figured out a way to kill it by adopting the ballot proposal, and then turning right around and amending it. So it basically gutted the proposal. So we don't have that paid sick leave, which obviously right now is something that could really use

Christine Barry 26:43
and not only do we not have it, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce came out at the at the time that it was an active issue. They came out in opposition to it, of course, and said it's just the worst thing that could ever happen. It would cripple business all blah, blah, blah. And now just I think it was last week, they've explained Is there support for aid to the workers and the businesses of the state? So and I philosophically agree with aiding the workers and the businesses, but now that it is a matter of the entire public community, supporting workers and businesses, and it's not a matter of business, disappointing their workers, and now the Chamber of Commerce is in support of it. It's kind of telling.

Walt Sorg 27:25
One other quick thing on the impact of the corona virus on our government system isn't the census in East Lansing in Ann Arbor, they are very worried that the census is going to be distorted, that they are going to lose literally thousands of residents being counted in the census, because the college students went home.

Christine Barry 27:43
And they have to be counted where they go to college. Right?

Walt Sorg 27:46
Well, they have to be counted where they say they live. And right now, defining where they live is a real question because for example, at Michigan State University the students are just in the process now finishing the the move out from the dorm They were given a deadline to move out so they get a refund or a partial refund of their dorm fees. And if those kids go home, they leave the state even in some cases, where are they counted for purposes of the census. For the city of East Lansing losing 10,000 residents translates into a lot of lost money.

PSA 28:21
COVID-19, better known as Coronavirus has spread throughout the world. Symptoms of this respiratory disease may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may show up two to 14 days after exposure. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have come into contact or are in an area with an ongoing outbreak, please call a hotline and or consult with a physician clean and disinfect high touch surfaces. For more information, please visit cdc.gov/covid19. Thank you.

Christine Barry 28:58
Everything is horrible, but life and Government go on. Joe Biden pretty much locked up the Democratic nomination with lopsided wins last week in Illinois, Florida, Arizona, Ohio was put off. And in the debate just prior to those primaries, he made gender based promises.

Joe Biden 29:15
I committed that if I'm elected president have an opportunity to appoint someone to the courts will be I'll appoint the first black woman to the courts. It's required that they have representation now. It's long overdue. Secondly, if I'm elected president, my, my cabinet, my administration will look like the country. And I commit that I will in fact, appoint a I pick a woman to be vice president. There are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow. I would take a woman to be my vice president.

Dana Bash 29:45
Just to be clear, you just committed here tonight that your running mate if you get the nomination will be a woman.

Joe Biden 29:50

Walt Sorg 29:51
Okay, Christine, let's talk about the Supreme Court first aid African American woman. I worked for one many years ago at the State Bar of Michigan, Victoria Roberts who is a federal judge now in Detroit, but I think she's probably too old and I hope she doesn't hear me say this. too old to be picked for the court. I think he wants somebody younger. my pick for the supreme court if he wants an African American woman who's a very, very eminent legal scholar, Michelle Obama,

Christine Barry 30:16
that would be wonderful. I would love that.

Walt Sorg 30:19
The look on mitch mcconnell's face would be just priceless.

Christine Barry 30:22
There are so many qualified African American women out there and some of them are actually on the shortlist. Well, I don't know if it's the shortlist, but their names have been brought up as VP picks. So for example, the mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms, she would be totally qualified. She's an attorney. I don't I don't know that she's ever been a judge before but there are just a lot of women who would be good at this who, you know, he's just got a great pool to pick from so I do love the idea of Michelle Obama because in your face, but we don't even know if we don't win the Senate. We don't even know if we'll be able to fill that seat

Walt Sorg 31:01
if a vacancy occurs, and I'm sure there'll be at least one in the next four years. And Joe Biden is the president. But mitch mcconnell's still the majority leader. There could be a vacancy for four years. So, okay, let's talk about vice president. This is really fun because I truly believe it. I think just about everybody believes that the CO front runners are Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, but there are others that are being considered there really are a lot of people. And every list that's out there right now includes the name of our governor Gretchen Whitmer, who says it's not going to be her. But people keep mentioning the great mentioned or keeps mentioning her.

Christine Barry 31:33
Yeah, and it shouldn't be her Michigan really needs her right now. And then if you add to the fact that she has her family, and she has a kid in school, I mean, that's that. I don't think that's going to happen. It is nice to see that she's Ascendant on the national stage. I think she deserves it. I think she's a good governor for the most part. So that's kind of nice, but we have So again, we have such a great pool of candidates. Amy Klobuchar is just rustbelt interesting, you know she's rock solid, and she's a great debater. And I think that would be a really interesting pick. Kamala Harris I like even better. But let's think about what our criteria or what we need someone who's younger, who's also presidential. Right, because joe biden's age, you know, people are going to question

Walt Sorg 32:21
the ready from day one criteria really applies. I think back to when john mccain picked, what's your name up there in Alaska. I don't even like to say her name, the Mask Singer, if you will, from Alaska. The argument against her was she wasn't ready to be President of the United States in john mccain was a cancer survivor. And people were worried that his vice presidential pick if he were to be elected, could end up as President. I think it's very important for Joe Biden, given his age, he's got to have somebody as a running mate who is generally perceived as ready for the gig.

Christine Barry 32:51
Yeah, I agree. And I think Additionally, it has to be someone who is at least partially aligned with economic and social agenda of young people that you're seeing being discussed more and more Bernie supporters, Elizabeth Warren supporters are really looking for change that Joe Biden doesn't promise, can he find a VP who is going to have enough broad appeal to bring in some of those folks who say, Okay, I see now that there is somebody who represents at least this percentage of what I'm looking for.

Walt Sorg 33:25
And he's got a good list to The Washington Post list includes Stacey Abrams, who I personally adore, but I think her resume is too thin for the job of the governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham. Governor Whitmer is fifth on their lists. Senator Catherine Cortez masto of Nevada was the first Latino elected to the United States Senate, I believe, would be a really interesting pick. For some reason, they put Cory Booker on their list too. And the last time I checked, Cory Booker is still a man. So I don't think he's in the running. Elizabeth Warren would be tremendous except for one thing. I think our age really hurt. in this circumstance, I'm not sure that having 2 70+ year old people on the ticket is a good idea. And then you've got three senators, all of whom are pretty spectacular Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

Christine Barry 34:18
Tammy Duckworth is a you know a war veteran. I mean, I think we all know her story and she is super she's super relatable and genuine in the way that she speaks to people but she's always got she's also got credentials to speak to veterans issues and

Walt Sorg 34:36
Speculation is fun, it's going to be Klobuchar or Harris, I would be willing to bet just about everything right now. At least bid my stocks on it because they're worthless right now. Anyway.

Unknown Speaker 34:48
COVID-19, better known as Coronavirus has spread throughout the world. Information about children with this disease is limited but they are known to have had mild symptoms. Many organizations are Responding accordingly depending upon their area, it's best to stay home and away from others, especially when sick and continue following healthy hand wash guidelines, covering mouth and nose and not touching your face or high touch surfaces. Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly. And for more information, please visit cdc.gov/covid19. Thank you.

Christine Barry 35:26
Well, we've talked a lot about health related actions surrounding the pandemic, but there is also a parallel crisis, which is the economic devastation that's already begun. To get a handle on that side of the story. Well talk with Michigan State University economist Dr. Charles Ballard,

Walt Sorg 35:43
Dr. beller I guess probably the place to start is How bad is it and how bad is it gonna get?

Charles Ballard 35:48
It's already bad. And I think we don't know how bad it's going to get. But we do know that it's going to get worse. I saw yesterday the estimate from the people at the university Michigan, Gabe Eric and his team at the research seminar for quantitative economics. They have a forecasting model. And they admitted that they their previous forecast that they didn't know like a lot of us didn't know how bad the virus was going to be. And they continue they had forecast the economy continuing to roll along. Now their forecast is that if things go well, second quarter GDP will drop by 4%. And if things don't go so well, second quarter GDP will drop by 12% which is a big that compares with at the height of the Great Recession 11-12 years ago, over a period of a year, GDP went down by 4%. This time GDP going down by 4% in a quarter. Another estimates that I've seen the Anderson economic group, they say that 3 million Michiganders are likely to have some sort of loss of income, not necessarily that they are out on the streets. But they either furloughed reduced work hours or something. This is unprecedented in our lifetime.

Walt Sorg 37:07
Are we looking at a basic restructuring of our economy, especially with things like the entertainment industry, which is basically on the verge of being shut down? restaurants travel? Are we going to be seeing a restructuring? Or is this something where we're just going to rebuild it, when this virus finally is conquered?

Charles Ballard 37:25
I think we don't know the answer to that yet. Because it depends on how long this goes on. And whether it comes back if you know some months from now, we look back at this and we think that it's a one off, you know, this unusual thing happened this one time, then I think people will go back to restaurants, they'll go to the movies, they'll do things like they used to, but the longer this goes on, and if we if we come to see this as a sort of a permanent or frequently recurring disaster Well, then, yeah, that may lead to some permanent restructuring of our economy. I I kind of hope that doesn't happen because there's so many things that I like to do that involve being close to other people. You know, I like going to restaurants, you think of all the lines of work that are dependent on close personal contact? I don't know what's going to happen to hairstyling. Is everybody going to have their cut their own hair, nail salons? All that kind of stuff. People have to be close together. That's the very nature of it. As a massage therapist, you can't do that virtually lots of sectors being very badly disrupted. And I guess I don't know how permanent this will be.

Walt Sorg 38:46
Let's talk a little bit about the government response and how they act to keep the economy from totally cratering. We've got two major examples in the last hundred years. We've got FDR his response to the Great Depression and then we've got that The Obama response to the Great Recession earlier this century, FDR really didn't drive up the deficit nearly as much as is being talked now, I was shocked when I looked at the numbers and saw that the deficits really were quite in line with what we were doing during good times.

Charles Ballard 39:18
Yes, but I think it is true that that FDR did a lot of emergency measures. One of the most important was the bank holiday right at the very beginning of his administration, because banks were closed in 31 of the 50 states, or 48 states at that time, including Michigan. So you couldn't write a check. You couldn't cash a check. The economy was imploding and by reopening the banks, that was a big step. And but then yeah, they didn't do deficit spending on a massive scale. But they did a lot. You know, the work the WPA projects did contribute to getting the economy out of the Great Depression. But you're right by the standards of what we've seen in some later times. The deficits in the 30s were not enormous. The deficits were much bigger during the Great Recession of the decade ago.

Walt Sorg 40:15
We had a situation over the last decade where the economy has been growing. But at the same time in the last couple of years as a result of the Trump tax cuts, the deficit has been soaring already. We were looking at a trillion dollar deficit before this happened. Now they're talking in terms of a rescue package that could add another trillion, perhaps two and a half trillion dollars to that. Is that something that we can handle?

Charles Ballard 40:39
Well, it is definitely something that I worry about. And that's one reason why I was opposed to the tax cut that we had two years ago. The idea that we should run big deficits, when times are good when the economy is near full employment. I don't think that was a very smart move because that means that when time turned bad. And we didn't know when the next recession was going to happen. But we were pretty sure that a recession would happen sooner or later. It is happening now, although it's from an unexpected channel, but now what's going to be the deficit for this fiscal year and next fiscal year 2,000,000,000,003 trillion. That raises a big question, in my mind, how much of an appetite to the world credit markets have for US Treasury debt. And so far, they have a big appetite. We keep pumping out the debt and they keep gobbling it up. But I gotta believe that that appetite is not infinite, and that sooner or later, we will run into a place where we have so much debt out there, that investors around the world they just feel, gosh, I've got enough of this stuff. And then what would happen, then, in order to get the credit markets to soak up even more debt We would have to pay a higher interest rate. We've been lucky in the last decade that we have mushrooming debt. But we interest rates have been rather low. And so we have only I'll put only in quotes only been paying about a half a trillion a year in interest on our national debt. if interest rates were to go up, and as we continue to pump more and more debt out, that's a very, very serious concern. I don't want the United States to turn into Argentina or Mexico, other countries that have had crises because they haven't kept their fiscal house in order. I often feel like I'm a lonely Voice in the Wilderness talking about this stuff, because both sides note nobody seems to be very worried about it at our political debate. You don't hear senator Sanders or Vice President Biden, or President Trump or anybody worrying much about the deficit, I am hoping that once we get past this, we can make a serious effort to get back to a balanced budget. It won't be easy, because of course, balanced budgets, what do you have to do? You got to raise taxes or you got to cut spending. And there's not a lot of political appetite for that. But I do think it's a very legitimate worry. How far can we push this? You know, we're now up to 17 trillion of US federal debt out there in the markets. At the rate we're going in a few years, it'll be 25 trillion. That's to paraphrase senator Everett Dirksen from the 60s, a trillion here, a trillion there and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Walt Sorg 43:49
To put it into perspective, going back to the first year of the Obama administration, when we were in the depths of the Great Recession, the debt compared to GDP was 9.8% of GDP that was the peak year and it

Charles Ballard 44:03
That was a big deficit.

Walt Sorg 44:04
Yeah. 9.8%. We're looking this time if they go with, say another trillion and a half dollars in stimulus, which is a possibility, we'd be looking at more than that now. Yes. And what else can they do though? That seems like the Fed has run out of cards, it can play interest rates or zero. It's at the point now, where money is basically to borrow money from the Fed is free for the banks. What else can they do?

Charles Ballard 44:31
So the Fed still has important work to do even though I think they're they can't lower their interest rate much more than they have. There's occasional talk about going to negative interest rates like the European countries have, but I'm not sure that that will work. But the Fed has been taking emergency measures to try to keep the basic plumbing of the credit markets working at one of the things that happened during the Great Recession a little bit more than a decade ago was that the market for commercial paper froze up. commercial paper is not very glamorous, but it's the motor oil that keeps the engine of the economy running. It's a short term credit that businesses use to pay day to day operations. And when that market froze up 11 years ago, that caused a lot of damage to the economy. And that market has looked turbulent in recent days. And the Fed is trying to, to calm that by injecting money when they can, but you're right that and you know, Chairman Powell, when they made their first move less than three weeks ago, although it seems like a lifetime ago. He admitted Look, the Fed can't stop the virus. The Fed can't fix broken supply chains, so there are limits to what they can do. The Fed really has only control over things that are allied with the credit markets and mortgage rates are really low right now. Now, but I'm not sure we're going to have a a boom of people buying homes, because when you want to buy a home, you want to go over there and look around. And if people can't leave their own homes, that's a problem.

Walt Sorg 46:13
So and you also have to have an income,

Charles Ballard 46:14
And you also have to have an income. And so I think it really is on the fiscal policy front that a lot of the most important things are are being are going to have to be done. And no matter what is done, this is going to be bad. There are limits to policy, for instance, some of the there's talk about this payroll tax cut, which I don't actually think would be very effective. So I'm not in favor of that, but it may happen. Well, the usual idea of a payroll tax cut is you leave more money in people's pockets and then they spend it so you know, you're the average person and you haven't lost your job. And now you got $20 a week extra money. What are you going to do? Hey, Hey, let's go out for dinner in a movie. Oh, well, no, you can't do that. I mean, there are all sorts of channels for spending that are now kind of in suspended animation. And so the most important thing that the federal government can do is get the virus under control. We know that there have been failures, President Trump, um, what's the best way that I can say this, he was

Walt Sorg 47:28
asleep at the switch?

Charles Ballard 47:30
really asleep, or worse than asleep, because for weeks when we could see that there was going to be a problem coming he was pretending that there was no problem. And then there were failures at the CDC failures at the FDA. If we had not made those mistakes, we wouldn't be in the in the problem that we're in although we would still be probably in trouble. We might have started social distancing weeks earlier, and that might have controlled the spread better. But anyhow, I think we should go on on a war footing because in a very real sense, we are in a in a war situation. It's an unusual war, but we need test kits more than anything else. After all, if you had enough test kits to test everybody, then you would quarantine those who are sick and the rest of us could go about our daily lives. But we're nowhere close to that. So we have to have this very blunt instrument. It's like, what we need is a scalpel. But all we've got is a sledge hammer, the sledgehammer of telling people to stay home.

Walt Sorg 48:31
Let's take a quick look at what this means for state government. The governor has been totally focused on dealing with the immediate crisis, the health crisis, but down the road, she's got a huge budget crisis coming up to it, which seems Michigan unlike the federal government can't print money, it can't go into debt heavily. What does this mean for the future of the Whitmer administration things like selling bonds to fix the roads or increasing taxes to fix local roads? Is that basically dead in the water now?

Charles Ballard 48:58
hard for me to test say for sure because it depends upon actions by people like Mike Shirkey, who I can't predict for sure what he will do. So far, I think Governor Whitmer has has had a difficult road, because she's had very little, very little cooperation from the legislature. But you're absolutely right that, whereas the federal government can just spend the money and as long as we don't run into a currency crisis, like I was worrying about a couple of minutes ago, they can keep doing that. But the state government is severely constrained. We're here at a time when our needs are mushrooming. And the capacity of the state government to do things is going to be shrinking because if people aren't working, they're not paying taxes. Revenues don't go into the state. If they're not spending sales tax revenues likely to take a hit,

Walt Sorg 49:57
and the auto industry is shut down.

Charles Ballard 50:00
The auto industry shut down. And, you know, I guess if you're if you're looking for silver linings, this isn't as bad as it might have been 50 years ago when the auto industry was almost a quarter of our economy in Michigan. Now it's about 8% of our economy that's still big. So the revenues available to the state are likely to be in very bad shape. I will say that people like me who still have their jobs, I think it would be a good public policy thing to require us to step up by having a tax increase, although I don't, that's probably why I'm not running for office, because anybody who talks about a tax increase, it's really hard, but the reality is that the state's ability to meet the desperate needs is constrained.

Walt Sorg 50:45
Professor Bell, thank you so much for your time. Hopefully, next time, we're talking to be a little bit more positive.

Charles Ballard 50:50
I'm looking forward to that. Thanks. Well,

Christine Barry 50:53
okay, folks, that's gonna do it for this week's podcast. For more information on today's subjects, head on over to Michiganpolicast.com. We have links, videos, tweets, memes, snark, you name it, we've got it.

Walt Sorg 51:06
We welcome your feedback as well just send us an email. mipolicast@gmail.com I guarantee you will be around answered because we're both hunkering down in place.

Christine Barry 51:15
And thanks so much for listening and we will talk to you again in a week.

Gretchen Whitmer 51:20
We must begin to prepare for the long term economic challenges this crisis will bring these challenges will be immense. From unemployment, to helping our businesses get back on their feet, to educating our children. It's not going to be easy and it is going to take time. But we've been through hard times before and we've come back. This will be a challenge, but we can come back when we work together. We'll come back stronger

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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