Last week was a tough one for the American economy, stock market, and public. Slowly, the number of Wuhan Coronavirus cases in the United States rose to more than 3,500. The New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and S&P all had their worst weeks since the Financial Crisis of 2008. At the same time, Saudi Arabia and Russia began a petroleum-price war pushing the price of oil down to levels at which many American producers cannot compete. This week looks to be little better.
Here in New Jersey, the number of Wuhan Coronavirus cases reached 178 by Monday. The number of cases in this observer’s county is five, with one infection in our own town. Governor Phil Murphy, who might one day make an excellent Democrat presidential candidate, ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, and schools. The governor has asked for an 8 PM to 5 AM curfew and is “strongly discouraging non-essential travel”. Murphy has also mobilized the New Jersey National Guard. Here, about 30 miles west of New York City, the grocery stores are decently stocked, except for meats, disinfecting wipes, and, of course, toilet paper. Across the Hudson River, Mayor Bill DeBlasio has closed the schools until at least 30 April and public health officials expect a massive jump in the number of Wuhan Coronavirus cases as testing becomes more available.
In Washington, House Republicans wrangled with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over an economic relief bill covering issues like health insurance and paid sick leave. Pelosi tried to sneak federal funding for abortion into the bill, a disastrous move that made it seem as if Pelosi was holding up important legislation over a Democrat pet issue. She eventually struck the abortion funding for the bill, after which Trump tweeted his support for the measure. Now, the Senate takes up the bill.
On Wednesday night, President Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office. In a short speech, he touted the actions his administration has taken so far. But mostly, the speech was a pep talk to the nation. ‘The virus will not have a chance against us,’ the President said. ‘No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.’ Then, on Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency. After reading from prepared notes and listing more actions he had taken, the president introduced executives from several American pharmaceutical companies and big box retailers and announced a plan to provide millions of tests at thousands of locations, with results coming within 24-36 hours. Google is building a massive web portal for identifying and directing patients toward test sites.
As President Trump talked, the markets rose and then skyrocketed when he announced the Feds would purchase oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This move to help beleaguered American oil companies should amount to a federal purchase of nearly 100 million barrels of oil. By the time the press conference was over, the NYSE rose more than 9 percent and gained nearly 2,000 points. The Federal Reserve, too, came to the aid of the markets, pumping in 1.5 trillion dollars of cash and slashing interest rates by a half a point. But, on Monday, the market plunged once again, erasing Friday’s gains. In fact, all of the market gains made since President Trump took office are gone.
Democrat Party frontrunner Joe Biden had another interesting week. On Thursday, he gave a speech outlining his plans for the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. He called Trump ‘xenophobic’ and slammed the travel restrictions the administration placed on Asia and Europe. He said, ‘Overall, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration.’ Then, on Friday, Biden’s campaign live-streamed a question and answer session. The broadcast was riddled with technical difficulties, blank screens, background noise, garbled words, and people who were brought on camera before they were ready. The broadcast was filled with awkward pauses and silences.
But, the biggest problem with Joe Biden’s livestream was Joe Biden. He often looked down at his phone or stared blankly into the camera. As he talked about healthcare, Biden went on and on. ‘I can get it done and I can get it done quickly. And people will be covered. But even I can’t do that for another two years…another year…between now and November…or actually January.’ At one point, Biden wondered off camera as he babbled on the Delaware and Chesapeake River estuaries. Biden was tested during Sunday Night’s debate. For once, Bernie Sanders attacked him directly. But voters are usually uninterested in twenty-five-year-old votes and the minutiae of campaign finance laws. Biden kept listing the things he would do, prefacing each point with ‘First’ and running on until ‘Second’ and so on. Sanders, who has been saying the exact same socialist things since 2016, didn’t really land a decent punch. Biden certainly got the better of the debate and almost certainly won the nomination, despite everything. Watching the man during the debate, one hand on the podium, the other in his pocket while he smirked at Sanders, one got the sense that Biden thinks he’s good at this.