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Weekend Reviews: U.S. Surpasses 700,000 COVID Deaths Even As Cases Decline
The United States has reached the tragic milestone of over 700,000 recorded COVID deaths, despite the wide availability of vaccines. The new death count comes at a time when the late summer surge of the Delta variant appears to be on the decline, with cases per day falling to approximately 100,000 per day.
The number of deaths in the U.S. is the highest recorded number in the world.
It has taken only three and a half months for the US COVID deaths toll to rise from 600,000 to the current count of approx 700,000. The vast majority of new COVID deaths are attributed to unvaccinated people who have perished under the recent surge of the Delta variant.
This phenomenon has provided endless consternation and frustration to the general medical community. An estimated 70 million people in the United States remain unvaccinated despite wide availability and access to vaccines. The recent surge provided an unwelcome echo of last winter and earlier last year, as hospitals filled up and doctors were tasked with having to choose which patients would be provided life-saving care.
The explosion of new cases has prompted local and state leaders around the country to implement vaccine mandates for school and work, with leaders like Gavin Newsome of California stating, “I have four young kids. I can’t take this anymore. I’m like most parents; I want to get this behind us, get this economy moving again, make sure our kids never have to worry about getting a call saying they can’t go to school the next day because one of the kids or a staff member tested positive,”.
California has become the first U.S. state to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all students returning to classes. A host of other states are expected to follow suit.
U.S. Approaches Debt Limit
The United States is rapidly approaching hitting its ability to continue borrowing money, with October 18th being the anticipated arrival date. If the government cannot find a way to pay its debt, it risks enacting a historic default by the end of October.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the impending default even as Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a bill to deal with the situation. The situation would place the government in a novel situation, as the U.S. has never been required to default on its debts before. The situation could have ripple effects on the US financial markets.
“Failure to act promptly could also result in substantial disruption to financial markets, as heightened uncertainty can exacerbate volatility and erode investor confidence,’’ said Yellen in her statement.
The Democrats currently control both houses of congress, but their leads are maintained by very thin margins. This means that Republicans can still block legislation in the Senate, which requires 60 of 100 members to consent.
Democrats have a couple of ways in which they can raise the debt limit, but the risk of Republican censure is great. Goldman Sachs economists have recorded that the current situation is “the riskiest debt-limit deadline in a decade.” Many financial officials both in government and the private sector have urged Republicans to support the increase.
In years past, it has also been noted that Republicans have used various methods to bypass the consensus process to enact various aspects of their agenda. Mitch McConnell was particularly fond of using budget reconciliation to avoid having to acquire the necessary 60 votes to pass an order in the Senate.
The situation presents a conundrum across the board at all levels of government. The White House has continued to explore how the Biden administration could continue making payments even after the debt ceiling is surpassed including the creation of a $1 trillion coin.
Infrastructure Bill Stalled After Democrats Fail To Reach Accord
Despite a week of frenzied negotiations, President Joe Biden’s 3.5 trillion dollar infrastructure bill failed to pass the House this week and remains in a state of limbo. The proposed deal encapsulates a great deal of policy, some of the most notable being that it would include substantial expansions to the country’s social safety net. The bill, in some ways, has developed into an indicator of a tendency within the Democratic party as progressives and moderates scrapped over nuances in the legislature.
Progressives have added additional climate-related proposals on top of the initial documents. In contrast, centrists have decried the 3.5 trillion version as “fiscal insanity,” endorsing a much more modest $1.5 trillion compromised edition. Senator Bernie Sanders has shot back that “Without a strong reconciliation bill, there will be no serious effort to cut carbon emissions and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.”
The house enacted a 30-day measure to prolong negotiations, with the new deadline falling on October 31st. President Biden has initiated a speaking tour of the country to educate the electorate on the actual contents of the bill. The President said, “I believe that when the American people are aware of what’s in it, we’ll get it done.”
Although the Democrats have ambiguously embraced the President’s agenda, House Republicans have unanimously rejected it for the most part. Moreover, Pelosi and Biden have labeled the obstruction as highly irresponsible.
Congress was able to avoid enacting a government shutdown, an event that would result in the temporary closure of federal museums and national parks, as well as the temporary cessation of government safety programs, hurricane relief, and aid provided to foreign nations.