Biden continues to describe his wish for the wealthy to “just pay a fair share”, while continuing to do well as the economy recovers, and for “Congress to finish the job and come through for the American people”.
His final appeal is for Americans to “stick together” while pursuing economic growth, and to make a “giant step forward in the fight against climate change, a crisis made more evident than ever by the death and destruction caused by extreme weather just these past few days”.
He’s heading for Louisiana, where power remains out to millions after Hurricane Ida hit last weekend, and leaving the north-east coast, where the death toll from the storm’s remnants, which hit on Wednesday, is approaching or even past 50, depending on who’s count you use.
Biden: ‘no question’ Delta variant behind poor jobs numbers
Speaking about the disappointing jobs numbers for August – as America prepares for the Labor Day holiday – Joe Biden insists: “What we’re seeing is an economic recovery that is durable and strong. The Biden plan is working.”
As Graeme Wearden of the Guardian business desk reported earlier: “The US added just 235,000 new jobs in August, a sharp and disappointing slowdown in hiring. That’s much weaker than expected, as the Delta variant of Covid-19 hit America’s economy last month.”
On Wall Street, in the aftermath of the jobs report, markets opened poorly.
Biden adds: “While I know some want to see a larger number today and so did I, what we’ve seen this year is a continued growth, month after month in job creation.”
He does admit that work needs to be done, including on combating the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has driven a surge in cases and deaths from Covid-19 widely seen to have contributed to the disappointing jobs numbers.
Biden thinks so: “There’s no question the Delta variant is why today’s jobs report isn’t stronger,” he says.
He also says too many people are still unvaccinated. The vast majority of hospitalisations and deaths in states struggling with Delta are among the unvaccinated. Many such states are run by Republicans opposed to public health measures and mandates.
Biden also calls for Congress to “finish the job of passing my economic agenda”. There are all sorts of roadblocks in the way of his infrastructure and budget plans, which are caught in crossfire between progressives and moderates in the Democratic party and, in the case of the budget plan, uniform opposition from Republicans.
“This is about good paying jobs for ordinary people,” Biden says. “Blue collar workers, jobs at a prevailing wage not $15 an hour but 20 or 30, but for the carpenters and pipe fitters, plumbers, electrical workers and so many others.”
“We’ll combat climate change by building our clean energy future,” Biden adds, topically as he prepares to visit Louisiana to meet victims of Hurricane Ida, promising to create “millions of jobs and building windmills and solar panels all around the country and transferring that energy transmitted to parts that don’t have that capacity”.
He also promises taxes will not go up on ordinary Americans, and that big corporations should “pay their fair share … and it comes up to billions of dollars if they pay”.
“The wealthy people aren’t paying taxes they owe,” Biden says, after briefly evoking the spectre of “the other guy”, meaning Donald Trump, his predecessor in the Oval Office. “We’re gonna change that.”
“Somebody’s gotta pay,” he says, hoping through such forceful words, of course, not to pay too heavily politically if the economic recovery should falter.
New Orleans will have power back by Wednesday, says supplier
In Louisiana, which Hurricane Ida hit first as one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall in the US, power supplier Entergy has said power should be restored to almost all of New Orleans by Wednesday, 10 days after Ida destroyed the city’s electric gird.
The Associated Press reports:
Not every customer will have power back, Entergy said. Customers with damage where power enters their home will need to fix it themselves, and there could be some smaller areas that take longer. And there still is no concrete promise of when the lights will come back on in the parishes east and south of New Orleans, which were battered for hours by winds of 100mph or more.
The company asked for patience, acknowledging the heat and misery in Ida’s aftermath.
In New York City, Bill de Blasio has been addressing the fallout from flooding in which 11 people died as the remnants of Ida battered the north-east on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Many of those killed were in basement apartments, unable to get out as flash floods hit.
De Blasio observed a moment of silence, thanked everyone who has worked to recover, then stressed again that “no one projected” the record rainfall in an hour that hit the city, smashing a record set only weeks before during Tropical Storm Henri.
“Things we are told will happen once a century are now happening regularly and they are getting worse,” De Blasio said, pointing an acceptance of the reality of the climate crisis in states like New York which is not necessarily shared elsewhere.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for Joe Biden. He’s due to speak about the disappointing jobs report, which seems a result of the pandemic and the Delta variant surge, before he flies out to Louisiana to visit people hit by Hurricane Ida.
And here he comes…
As the last of the US troops took off from Kabul on Tuesday, Jonathan Freedland spoke to Thomas Kean. Kean co-wrote the 9/11 commission report, detailing who was to blame for the events of September 11, and making recommendations to prevent a subsequent attack.
In the latest episode of the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast, Kean shares his thoughts on the end of America’s longest war:
Tucker Carlson: ‘tyrants’ force people to make fake vax cards
The act of buying a fake vaccination card, according to Tucker Carlson of Fox News, is “an act of desperation by decent, law-abiding Americans who have been forced into a corner by tyrants”.
In New York, 15 people were charged this week over a scheme to make and sell fake vaccination ID and to fraudulently enter people into the New York vaccinations database.
Cyrus Vance Jr, the Manhattan district attorney, said: “The stakes are too high to tackle fake vaccination cards with whack-a-mole prosecutions … Making, selling, and purchasing forged vaccination cards are serious crimes with serious public safety consequences.”
Carlson disagrees. On his primetime show on Thursday night, he said: “These arrests will be used to justify digital health passports for the entire American population.”
As opposed to that section of the American population which works for Fox News, which as was widely reported in July, has “developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status”.
Carlson said Vance was lying.
“Buying a fake vaccination card is not a, quote, ‘serious crime,’” he said. “It’s not even close to a serious crime. Buying a fake vaccination card is an act of desperation by decent, law-abiding Americans who have been forced into a corner by tyrants.
“You know what’s a serious crime? Forcing Americans to take drugs they don’t need or want. That’s a very serious crime. And let’s hope, in the end, someone is punished for it, severely.”
Carlson also said health workers who have refused to be vaccinated had “in good conscience … risked their careers to preserve their right to bodily autonomy and now they’re in jail for that.”
Carlson is of course a controversy magnet by design. Here’s more:
Of interest in the case of the Texas abortion law, an amicus brief filed with the supreme court in the case of a restrictive Mississippi law yet to be considered is co-signed by all the usual suspects when it comes to possible 2024 ambitions – bar one.
The brief was filed by Henry McMaster, governor of South Carolina, and co-signed by Kay Ivey of Alabama, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Brian Kemp of Georgia, Brad Little of Idaho, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Michael Parson of Missouri, Greg Gianforte of Montana, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, and Greg Abbott of Texas.
Missing from that list – some of whom, looking at you, Ron DeSantis, seem more likely to run for the Republican presidential nomination if Donald Trump doesn’t than others – is Kristi Noem of South Dakota.
Noem is being advised by none other than Corey Lewandowski, once Trump’s campaign manager and still someone close to the Trump inner circle. Noem is someone very much mentioned whenever speculation about 2024 raises its ugly head. This blogger wonders, apropos of Jim Jordan’s mention of Reynolds of Iowa as a possible Trump running mate yesterday, whether Noem might be a prospective VP pick too.
Republican governors who did not sign the brief in the Mississippi case include Phil Scott of Vermont, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland – popular governors in charge of blue or Democratic states. Hogan is very much considering a run in 2024 … if it would in all likelihood be a run, in a party fully prostrate before Trump, wildly unlikely to succeed.
Durbin: Senate panel will investigate supreme court ‘shadow docket’
News from the Senate, where Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the judiciary committee, has announced a hearing on the supreme court’s use of the “shadow docket” to rule on hugely consequential cases as if by stealth, “particularly its order permitting Texas’s extreme new abortion restrictions to take effect this week”.
For more on the shadow docket, see block published at 8.40am.
There’s no date for a hearing yet, but in a statement from Democrats on the judiciary committee, Durbin said: “The supreme court must operate with the highest regard for judicial integrity in order to earn the public’s trust. This anti-choice law is a devastating blow to Americans’ constitutional rights – and the court allowed it to see the light of day without public deliberation or transparency.
“At a time when public confidence in government institutions has greatly eroded, we must examine not just the constitutional impact of allowing the Texas law to take effect, but also the conservative court’s abuse of the shadow docket.
“The supreme court’s midnight order calls into question the consequences of the conservative majority’s increased use of the ‘shadow docket’ in judicial review, which can hinder public confidence and leave lower courts in the dark about how to apply the court’s precedent.
“As Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent, ‘the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow docket decision-making – which every day becomes more un-reasoned, inconsistent, and impossible to defend.’”
Jordan hints Trump will announce 2024 run soon
Donald Trump will announce a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 “any day now”, the Ohio congressman and prominent Trump supporter Jim Jordan reportedly said in Iowa on Thursday.
A spokesman for Jordan denied he made the comment to The Undercurrent, a liberal website.
The reporter who said he did, Lauren Windsor, tweeted a still of Jordan talking and wrote: “We can’t both be right. See for yourself, video coming tomorrow … stay tuned.”
The still was taken from a similar angle to that with which Windsor recently caught the Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson admitting there was no voter fraud in his state at the 2020 election, and that Trump simply lost.
Still, Trump refuses to admit that and while repeatedly lying about electoral fraud has repeatedly stoked speculation that he will mount an attempt to take back the White House. In his first four-year term, he was impeached twice amid unprecedented scandal, rancour, chaos and, at its end, outright insurrection against the peaceful transfer of power.
Jordan, as it happens, is one of a number of senior Republicans sweating over moves by the House committee investigating the deadly 6 January assault on the US Capitol, including a request that phone companies preserve records which may shed definitive light on who talked to Trump and when that day. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, is also under scrutiny – and has threatened phone companies with retribution if they comply.
As it also happens, Jordan hinted at an imminent Trump announcement elsewhere during his Iowa trip. Speaking at a Dallas county Republican party dinner in West Des Moines on Thursday night, KCCI Des Moines reported, Jordan said he spoke to Trump on Wednesday.
“I’m convinced he’s going to, you know, he’s thinking about this fine governor you have [Kim Reynolds] as part of that amazing ticket,” Jordan said.
A GOP official later said Trump would travel to Iowa, the first state to vote, very soon. Earlier this week, Trump told rightwing radio host Todd Starnes he would soon stage more political rallies, adding: “We’re going to Iowa. We’re going to Georgia. We’re going to some others.”
Such is Trump’s grip on the Republican party, a second presidential candidacy would likely blow other hopefuls, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and former Trump UN ambassador Nikki Haley prominent among them, out of the political water.
Trump’s supporters are doing their best to be prepared. On Thursday, ProPublica came out with a striking report about efforts, driven by former White House strategist and far-right gadfly Steve Bannon to “seize control of the GOP from the bottom up”.
In short, Bannon, who Trump pardoned on federal fraud charges, thinks Trump lost to Joe Biden “because the Republican party sold him out” and is therefore pushing a takeover of precinct-level Republican operations by Trump supporters.
Such workers can have an outsized effect on how elections are run, including playing a role in polling day operations.
ProPublica said it “contacted GOP leaders in 65 key counties, and 41 reported an unusual increase in signups since Bannon’s campaign began. At least 8,500 new Republican precinct officers (or equivalent lowest-level officials) joined those county parties. We also looked at equivalent Democratic posts and found no similar surge.”
Here’s more on Trump’s plans:
Per the disappointing jobs report (see block at 8.55am), and ahead of Joe Biden’s remarks on the subject at 10am ET, I should add that the Guardian’s Graeme Wearden knows a lot more about all this than me and is running our business blog, here:
Ida death toll in north-east nears 50
The Associated Press puts the death-toll in the north-east from Hurricane Ida at 48, two higher than I had in my intro.
Two more deaths are reported in New Jersey, the state which has paid the highest price in lives after being hit by tornadoes at one end and flooding at the other.
Late on Thursday, Joe Biden declared federal disasters for New Jersey and New York, freeing up aid.
Authorities in all affected states said the search for victims and the process of identifying the dead was not over.
New York’s new governor, Kathy Hochul, came into the job in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Henri, which was briefly a hurricane, and now continues in the aftermath of Ida.
She said on Thursday the region should follow extensive work in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which battered the north-east in 2012, with more work to prepare for more frequent flash-flooding inland, as the climate crisis takes hold.
“One thing I want to make clear,” she said. “We’re not treating this as if it’s not going to happen again for 500 years.”
The August jobs numbers are out and they are not as good as expected. As I am not in any even remote meaning of the term a business journalist I will note that Biden is due to make remarks about the numbers at 10am ET, then offer you Reuters’ take:
US job growth slowed more than expected in August amid a softening in demand for services and persistent worker shortages as Covid-19 infections soared, but the pace was enough to sustain the economic expansion.
Non-farm payrolls increased by 235,000 jobs last month after surging 1.053m in July, the US labor department said in its closely watched employment report on Friday.
The unemployment rate fell to 5.2% from 5.4% in July. It has, however, been understated by people misclassifying themselves as being “employed but absent from work”.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast non-farm payrolls increasing by 728,000 and the unemployment rate falling to 5.2%. Payrolls estimates ranged from as low as 375,000 to as high as 1.027m.
The initial August payrolls print has undershot expectations and been slower than the three-month average job growth through July over the last several years, including in 2020. August payrolls have been subsequently revised higher in 11 of the last 12 years.
CNN’s Reliable Sources has a handy roundup of headlines in the Texas press concerning the draconian anti-abortion law passed in the state and, via the Jack Ryan-esque Shadow Docket, not stopped by US supreme court.
The Austin American-Statesman went with “Texas abortion ban uses harassment to bypass the rule of law”; the Houston Chronicle opinion pages plumped for, “Hello, Texas? The Wild West called, they want their laws back”; and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram chose “Conservatives used to hate frivolous lawsuits. Now, Texas abortion law invites them.”
In the words of a far greater man than me, Chris Morris: “Those are the headlines. God I wish they weren’t.”
The New York Times has an interesting piece on the Shadow Docket, which it says is made up of “emergency petitions that often yield late-night decisions issued with minimal or no written opinions”, thereby departing from usual practice including oral arguments before the court, and which the conservative-dominated panel is using with increased frequency to decide matters of huge importance.
In her dissent to the unsigned opinion on the Texas abortion law, the liberal justice Elena Kagan said the practice “every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend”.
Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied the Shadow Docket and testified about it, told the Times: “If they are going to issue rulings that profoundly change the law, I think they have an obligation to write and to explain why they are doing it.”
This law has set off a five-alarm fire among liberals and supporters of women’s right to choose.
Axios reports that the Biden White House is ready to go into battle, seeing a hot issue for the midterms next year. Referring to the portions of the Texas law which allow people to sue anyone they suspect of even aiding an abortion, a senior White House aide said: “I want to see the GOP defend the idea that your nosy neighbour can sue your aunt for driving you to the hospital.”
Here’s Hugo Lowell on how Congress sees the issue:
… and welcome to another day’s coverage of politics in the US, which means the politics of the Afghanistan withdrawal and the Texas anti-abortion bill and more but also of course means coverage of the ongoing fallout from Hurricane Ida.
One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US hammered New Orleans and left people dead in Louisiana and Mississippi, then drenched the north-east on Wednesday, killing as many as 46 people, predominantly in flash-floods. Reports out of New York, a city of basement apartments which some found impossible to escape, were appalling and moving both.
Joe Biden will visit Louisiana today, touring and talking in LaPlace and Lafourche. Millions are still without power.
The nearest deaths to Washington on Wednesday were in Maryland – New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania suffered most – but Biden is, obviously, keenly aware of the national picture.
At the White House on Thursday, he said: “The past few days of Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the west and the unprecedented floods in New York and New Jersey is yet another reminder that the climate crisis is here.”
Someone should probably tell Fox News.
Biden will leave the White House for Louisiana at 10.30am – after giving remarks about the latest jobs numbers – and he’ll speak again at 2.35pm.
Brian Stelter of CNN, meanwhile, makes a reasonable point about media focus on the storm in the north-east: “National news outlets based in NY and DC are often accused of an east coast bias. And those complaints have a lot of merit. But not on Thursday. Ida’s aftermath was deadlier in the north-east than the south, so the extensive coverage was entirely warranted…”
There’s plenty more going on, of course, so stay with us.
Further reading, about where Biden’s going: