Month: April 2020

We need to keep people from losing their homes. Here’s how we do it. Cancel rent and mortgage payments in California to prevent a wave of evictions

There’s no way around it: Sheltering in place is the only way to slow the spread of COVID-19. But social distancing demands a rare suite of opportunities and resources. Right now, millions of Californians living paycheck to paycheck, without the ability to work remotely, face impossible choices: stay home and risk losing everything, or make an income and risk spreading the virus? Pay for housing, or pay for food? When we finally “return to normal” and temporary relief efforts lift, responsible Californians stand to lose the very homes in which they sheltered. Unless we take action, the oncoming tsunami of evictions and foreclosures will eclipse even the darkest days of the Great Recession.

The solution is clear: we must cancel rent and mortgage payments in California. Here’s how we get that done.

First, we must acknowledge that fewer than one in three Americans can make an income working from home, and disparities break along racial and socioeconomic lines. Just under 20% of Black people and a mere 16% of Latinos have the privilege of working from home. For those without a college degree, that number is just 4%. While Unemployment Insurance claims have spiked to a record-high, surpassing the peak of California’s unemployment during the Great Recession, millions more have lost income with little or no recourse. Many will lose their jobs permanently.

Second, we must be clear that current policy in California provides no meaningful protection in the long-term. There is a temporary forbearance on mortgage payments for some — but not all — property owners. Those who cannot pay now must pay later. For renters, Governor Gavin Newsom’s “eviction moratorium” merely delays the inevitable. Anyone who can’t make rent during the shelter-in-place order will remain liable for back-rent, or face eviction after protections are lifted. Different counties across the state provide different grace periods before tenants will be subject to eviction. Mapping the legal patchwork the Governor has left to his 18 million renting constituents is disorienting, especially considering many lack the resources to secure legal representation.

Third, the current federal stimulus package won’t meet the needs of Californians. For Bay Area residents, a one-time payment of $1,200 will barely cover rent for a single bedroom.

Here’s what Newsom and the California Legislature need to do: Immediately issue an emergency declaration cancelling rent and mortgage payments for tenants and homeowners who have been hit by COVID-19 and/or its economic impacts for as long as the state of emergency is in place. And, if mortgage relief cannot be renegotiated with lenders, allow small landlords to deduct lost rent from their mortgage payments. This can be done using a simple, equitable formula: Total suspended rent payments, divided by total payments typically owed through the suspension period, multiplied by mortgage payments through the suspension period.

Under this formula, a landlord with a $5,000/month mortgage will have $15,000 of their mortgage forgiven over a three month suspension period if their tenants can’t pay any amount of rent. A landlord with the same mortgage and rent rate will be forgiven $7,500 over the same period if their tenants can only pay 50% of the rent.

While the California State Legislature has been out of session since March 16th, New York lawmakers remain hard at work virtually debating a bill to cancel rent and the above formula for mortgages. Here in San Francisco — where the Board of Supervisors has canceled its recess to continue legislating — Supervisors Matt Haney and Hillary Ronen recently held a joint press conference with other local elected officials from major cities to call for a federal and statewide rent and mortgage moratorium.

Even a month ago, the scope of this project might have sounded impossible, but the challenges of a global pandemic have unleashed our imaginations, and inspired dramatic solutions. Millions of Californians have retreated into their homes indefinitely. All but essential businesses have shuttered. Once bustling streets sit desolate. This time last year, the enormity of our action would have been unimaginable — the stuff of science fiction — but extraordinary threats demand extraordinary solutions. Now is the time to be bold.

Bending the curve is a collective project of unprecedented scale and urgency. San Francisco and California have led the nation in our public health response by taking early, ambitious action. Now we must again emerge as national leaders in our response to the coming eviction and foreclosure crisis. After years of local factionalism over housing, this common-sense policy should unite everyone. We need to keep people in their homes today, and ensure they don’t lose them tomorrow. Cancel rent and mortgages now.

American vandal: Trump reveals our staggering incompetence before the whole world Now the country that planned D-Day can’t handle delivering medical supplies — and it’s not just about Trump

Since the day after Donald J. Trump as elected in 2016, I’ve been fretting about the effect of his obvious unfitness and incompetence for the “world order” as we have known it. I’ve made clear that I don’t believe there’s any reason why the U.S. should be the perpetual guarantor of security for half the world, nor is it forever obligated to provide some kind of Pax Americana. That was a consequence of America’s unique position after World War II, having had the good fortune to escape the destruction of our homeland, which left us in the position of the last country standing. To our credit (and for our own profit) we did handle the aftermath of that war more competently than the world handled the aftermath of World War I.

But it has been clear to me from the moment Donald Trump came down that elevator that if he won, the world order as we knew it, which was already unstable, was going to be turned upside down with no coherent plan to replace it. His one simple understanding of the world was that he, and the United States, have been treated unfairly. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. America and Donald Trump had it all.

Throughout the Cold War and the red-baiting and the military adventurism and the overweening self-regard that we assumed was our right as the Leader of the Free World, we managed to do a lot of things wrong and the price for that has been high. This is true even though, as Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir wrote in this searing account of America’s precipitous decline as revealed by the coronavirus, the American people hardly noticed:

We have an ingrained national tendency to behave as if the rest of the world simply doesn’t exist — or, on a slightly more sophisticated level, as if it were just a colorful backdrop for our vastly more important national dramas.

O’Hehir rightly observes that empires inevitably collapse, but America’s almost childlike inability to admit it even is an empire, even as it crumbles, may be unique in human history.

Still, for all its myopic arrogance, the one thing America clearly did right — and was justifiably proud of — was to create a technologically advanced society that was the envy of the world. For all our faults, Americans knew how to do things. We could get the job done.

Now the country that sent men to the moon and brought them home again, all the way back in the 1960s, is a fumbling mess, unable to manage the simple logistics of getting supplies from one place to another or coordinating a national set of guidelines in a public health crisis. The vaunted CDC, long thought of as the greatest scientific disease research facility in the world, fumbled in making a test that had already been produced in other countries.

Donald Trump is a completely incompetent leader — we know this. Literally any other president would have done a better job. He couldn’t accept that the crisis was real and that his “plan” to spend the year holding fun rallies and smearing his Democratic rival was going to be interrupted by his duties as president. So he lived in denial until the situation was completely out of hand. Other leaders would have listened to experts and pulled together a team that knew how to organize a national response. And no other president would be so witless as to waste precious time and resources with magical thinking about quick miracle cures.

But it’s not just him, is it? The U.S. government seems to have lost its capacity to act, and the private sector is so invested in short-term profit-making that it’s lost its innovative edge. The result is that the United States of America, formerly the world’s leader in science and technology, now only leads the world in gruesome statistics and body counts.

It’s still unclear exactly why the CDC felt it had to make its own test when another test, created by a German lab, was already available. According to those in the know, Americans just don’t use tests from other countries, ostensibly because our “standards” are so high. Apparently, they aren’t. In this case, the test we created was faulty, causing weeks of delay, and there was some kind of contamination in the lab. How can this be?

The government’s inefficiency and ineptitude in producing, locating and distributing needed medical supplies, combined with Trumpian corrupt patronage toward his favored states, is staggering. Stories of FEMA commandeering shipments of gear that were already paid for by states, and governors having to bid against each other for supplies because the federal government refused to use its power to take control in a global emergency, are simply astonishing. The country that planned the D-Day invasion is incapable of coordinating the delivery of medical supplies to New York City?

Apparently so. And the world is watching. The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg wrote:

“If you look at why America rose so much after 1945, it was because America attracted the best scientists in the world,” Klaus Scharioth, Germany’s ambassador to America from 2006 to 2011, told me. “America attracted expertise. You had the feeling that all governments, be they Republicans or Democrats, they cherished expertise.” Like many Americanophiles abroad, Scharioth has watched our country’s devolution with great sadness: “I would not have imagined that in my lifetime I would see that.”

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a rising Republican leader, evidently wants to ensure that American never attracts any expertise again:

If Chinese students want to come here and study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers, that’s what they need to learn from America. They don’t need to learn quantum computing. It is a scandal to me that we have trained so many of the Chinese Communist Party’s brightest minds.

The rest of the world is moving on without us. This week 20 global leaders held a conference call pledging to “accelerate cooperation on a coronavirus vaccine and to share research, treatment and medicines across the globe.” No one from the United States was among them.

Why bother? No U.S. pledge of any kind is worth the paper it’s printed on and in any case, the U.S. is clearly unwilling to work cooperatively with the rest of the world anymore, even in a global catastrophe.

I think this says it all:

This pandemic is the first real global threat of the 21st century. It won’t be the last. These are the kinds of great, unprecedented challenges we are going to face going forward. Not only is the U.S. not leading the response, it’s barely participating in it.

The election of Donald Trump was about more than just this presidency. It signaled that America was no longer capable of competently governing itself, much less leading the world. Our devastatingly disorganized, scattershot response to the COVID-19 crisis has revealed that this problem goes much deeper than our politics. We couldn’t have lost our ability to do anything right at a worse time.

SOURCE:https://www.salon.com/2020/04/27/american-vandal-trump-reveals-our-staggering-incompetence-before-the-whole-world/

Are Face Masks the New Condoms?

If people with no symptoms are spreading the coronavirus, as some studies suggest, it may be time to give face masks the kind of advertising and promotion that support condoms as lifesavers.

Are face masks going to become like condoms — ubiquitous, sometimes fashionable, promoted with public service announcements? They should be, one virus researcher says, if early indications are correct in suggesting that Covid-19 is often spread by people who feel healthy and show no symptoms.

David O’Connor, who studies viral disease at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: “If a substantial amount of transmission occurs before people feel sick, how do you stop that? By the time people feel sick and seek care, all the testing and isolation in the world would be too little, too late.”

Dr. O’Connor, who researches H.I.V. and other viruses, including the new coronavirus, said some recent research had shifted his thinking about the current pandemic.

“H.I.V. is also spread while people feel fine,” he wrote in an email, “and consistent, correct condom use is a barrier to sexual virus transmission that works.”

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/18/health/coronavirus-mask-condom.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Health