☕ Cover: President Donald J. Trump tours the mask production assembly line Tuesday, May 5, 2020, at Honeywell International Inc. in Phoenix. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Good Morning. Here’s what you need to know to start the day, along with perspective from both sides for calmer coffee conversations with your family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Plus, a bit of sad news: The world has lost comedy legend Jerry Stiller. This clip shows Stiller making the Seinfeld cast laugh so hard they fall on the floor.
📰 TOP STORY
Tax On, Tax Off: The battle for access to President Trump’s tax returns began long before his election and inauguration. Later today, however, President Donald Trump’s lawyers will urge the Supreme Court to let him block access to his tax returns and other financial documents sought by three congressional committees and a New York prosecutor. While Trump is actively working to block the release, the subpoenas in question are not directed at the President himself. Instead, they are attempting to retrieve Trump’s financial records from Deutsche Bank, Capital One, and the Mazars USA accounting firm. On top of Trump’s personal stake in the matter, the eventual ruling will have broader consequences in relation to the ability of a president to refuse formal requests from Congress.
On the Left: Many have ardently pressed for the President to make his financial records available since the earliest days of his presidential campaign. Before Trump’s election, Chris Cillizza, at the Washington Post, theorized six potential reasons for why he refuses to release his tax returns: he has Russian ties, he is being audited, he has not paid taxes, he has mob ties, he contributes little to charity, or he is not as rich as he says. While there’s only anecdotal evidence to back some of these claims, Cillizza argues that Trump could easily discredit such suspicions by publicizing his financial records. Alternatively, Trump’s resistance only worsens suspicions of illicit or unflattering details about his financial circumstances. Trump’s passage of the 2017 tax bill also strengthened calls to release his records to reveal whether he personally benefited from its passage. Several polls taken during the 2016 election showed that an overwhelming 74% of Americans want Trump’s returns, and 62% of Republican voters were among them.
On the Right: Trump and his base have vehemently argued against the President being compelled to disclose his financials, and they have criticized the effort as a political maneuver by Democrats. George Skelton, at the LA Times, writes that congressional oversight committees should be able to privately examine a president’s personal and business returns, “[but] even a president has some rights of privacy.” The former Democratic Governor of California, Jerry Brown, has also argued that it may be unconstitutional and “…it sets a ‘slippery slope’ precedent. Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards?” Robert W. Wood, at Forbes, explains that while voters may consider tax disclosures a necessity for trust, the partisan rationale for Trump’s tax returns are moot because “[he] surely lost those votes in 2016, and disclosing them now will surely not win any votes for 2020.”
Flag This: There is no law that requires presidents and presidential candidates to make their tax returns publicly available. However, from Richard Nixon’s presidency, nearly all presidents and presidential candidates have released their tax returns (or other documents illustrating their personal finances). Trump’s refusal to do so would break precedent that has been followed for over four decades. Those against the practice believe it is an overly intrusive violation of the president’s privacy. Nevertheless, there is concern that Trump’s decision could end the de facto custom altogether, which may lead to less transparency in future elections. Regardless of the candidate’s partisan affiliation, it could present troubling consequences with less transparent elections and American voters being less informed about their candidates. An interesting question for those who think Trump should not be required to release his tax return is this: Some believe that Joe Biden and his son need to testify before the U.S. Senate about family business dealings with Ukraine and China. If Joe Biden wins the presidential nomination in November, should he be required to release his returns?
🦅 US NEWS
State Updates: Nebraska, Kentucky, & Alabama
Despite concerns that in-person voting will spread coronavirus, Nebraska’s presidential primaries are set for today. Meanwhile, in Appalachia: a high concentration of factories and the postponement of the Kentucky Derby, along with other factors, caused about 32% of Kentucky’s workforce to seek jobless benefits in seven weeks, well above the 20% for the U.S. overall. Lastly, down South, the federal government gave Alabama a blank check for $1.8 billion. That money was supposed to help Alabama protect its citizens from COVID-19 and cover the costs and losses the state has incurred dealing with the disease. Instead, Alabama Senate leaders want to use $200 million of that money to build a new State House. Keep reading.
Who Has the Meats? As U.S. meat workers fall sick and supplies dwindle, exports to China soar
U.S. President Donald Trump invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act on April 28 to keep meat processing plants open. Now he is facing criticism from some lawmakers, consumers, and plant employees for putting workers at risk in part to help ensure China’s meat supply, Reuters reports. What’s happening: US meat processors temporarily closed about 20 U.S. meat plants as the virus infected thousands of employees. The disruptions mean consumers could see 30% less meat in supermarkets by the end of May, at prices 20% higher than last year.
- Flag This: While pork supplies tightened as the number of pigs slaughtered each day plunged by about 40% since mid-March, shipments of American pork to China more than quadrupled over the same period. It might not be all bad, however. Here’s why.
🌎 WORLD NEWS
It’s easy to get bogged down and fed up with US-focused coronavirus news. Seeing as how the outbreak is a global phenomenon, it’s helpful to step outside of our bubble and look for hints at what’s important and what’s ahead based on developments abroad. Here are some bad and good headlines from across the world.
- South Korea again closed down bars and clubs after seeing its largest one-day increase of new COVID-19 infections in a month, with more than 50 linked to a 29-year-old man who visited five clubs and bars last weekend.
- Germany’s new infections accelerated in days after it loosened social restrictions. But, but, but: new fatalities from the coronavirus in Germany, were the lowest in more than a month
- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country’s lockdown may ease earlier than planned.
- Spain reported the lowest number of deaths since March as its restrictions are also softened.
Sun-shy Indonesians are suddenly soaking up the rays
Over the past month or two, Indonesians have begun sunbathing en masse, The Economist writes. Why it’s interesting: Indonesian culture normally prizes pale skin, which is regarded as beautiful and most Indonesians would never dream of tanning. Yet they are willing to risk a darker shade now because they believe sunlight helps to fend off Covid-19.
- Flag This: the WHO’s Covid-19 myth-busters website states that “Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 25°C does not prevent Covid-19.
- But, But, But: Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to more severe cases of Covid-19, two studies based on data from more than 20 countries found. Researchers in both studies found that countries where people had lower levels of vitamin D had a higher rate of severe Covid-19 cases and deaths than countries where people had higher levels of the nutrient.
🗞️ BIZ, SPORTS, & TECH
Abbott Laboratories received emergency use authorization from the FDA on Monday for its new coronavirus test that detects Covid-19 antibodies. Abbott plans to ship roughly 30 million tests in May and 60 million tests in June.
The UK government has given permission for the Premier League and other professional sports to return behind closed doors from June 1, providing its five tests on controlling the coronavirus are met. Keep reading.
More Moves for Apple
Apple has reportedly been in talks geared to shifting up to a fifth of iPhone production from China to India over the next five years. Most of the production would be for export. This would represent a massive ramping up of the Cupertino company’s efforts to reduce its dependence on China, following a report that the company is to make AirPods outside the country.
📢 PRESENTED BY VINCERO
🗳️ FLAG POLLS
Results From Last Week’s Flag Poll
If the federal government created a contact-tracing app to help eliminate the coronavirus and it meant the US could open its economy faster, would you download it? 36% said Yes, 64% said No. Final results and comments.
This Week’s Flag Poll
If there is a “second wave” of coronavirus infections, do you think the United States should implement the same lock down measures? Click here to vote.
On this day in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt’s trip to San Francisco is captured on moving-picture film, making him the first president to have an official activity recorded in that medium. See the footage.
Wearing Masks May Have a Surprising Unintended Consequence (Fast Company)
$70k for Zoom classes? Virus crisis leaves US students miffed (Yahoo News)
Mysterious 2,572% Stock Rally Has Traders Scratching Their Heads (Bloomberg Quint)
Question: Why can the military use emergency powers to treat service members with trial COVID-19 drugs? Answer here…