So often we only hear bad news from the national media, and the good news we do hear is either downplayed, obscured, or put in a less positive context. That has been particularly true since the media seized on COVID-19, the economic effect of the response to it, and this summer’s urban rioting as the “news” they needed to hurt President Trump politically.
Last week was no different. On Friday we got the jobs report for August. Now, here are the facts: in August the US economy added 1.4 million jobs. Even more impressive is the fact that our economy has added 10.6 million jobs over the last four months. That’s roughly half the jobs the shutdown caused in March and April and brings our unemployment rate down to 8.4% from April’s high of 14.7%. I remember warnings to Congress from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that we should expect unemployment in excess of 20%. And initial Unemployment Insurance claims from laid off workers continue to fall. This jobs recovery is the fastest in U.S. history. That’s all pretty good news, but you’d never know it from the national media’s coverage.
Another piece of good news is the revenue coming into state and local governments. Back in spring the “experts” issued dire warnings for the tax receipts for these governments. In fact, from the end of March to the end of June, state and local tax receipts have fallen $13 billion, not good but not nearly as bad as was predicted. On the other hand, the COVID-19 federal government outlays all told increased federal aid to state and local governments by $192 billion, which means state and local governments have a net increase of $179 billion in revenue. The states have only spent 24% of all the money sent to them by Congress, so they have plenty yet to spend.
You don’t hear anything about this from the media either because they support Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demand for an additional $1 trillion to bail out state and local governments which have totally mismanaged their operations both during and before the pandemic, especially with regard the employee pension obligations. Alabama has done a far better job managing its finances and is projected to end this fiscal year on September 30 in the black. We have not only handled the response to COVID-19 responsibly so that our economy is better off than the nation as a whole, which brings in more state revenue, but we are also more careful with state spending. Why should we bail out those states and cities which have mismanaged themselves, locked down too hard and too long, and have been flirting with fiscal disaster for years?
On the health care front, the seven-day average of new cases is down 37% from the peak this summer. A total of 88 million tests have been completed in just seven months, far more than any other country in the world. There has been a huge turnaround on the number of N-95 respirators that were in such short supply earlier in the year: 99 million have now been delivered for first responders and health care workers. That’s on top of 15 million face shields and 83 million gloves. There are over 270 clinical trials underway for therapies to treat the disease, and three strong vaccine candidates are in Phase Three trials, leading public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci to predict an effective vaccine by the first quarter of next year.
But the news media, to the extent they’re covering the disease, have told you little of this because it just doesn’t fit their narrative. To be sure, we still have new cases and new deaths from the disease every day, and even one is too many. We need the vaccine to return to a new and more open normal, but to create a vaccine for a new, previously unknown coronavirus in a year or less is unheard of. And yet President Donald Trump’s Project Warp Speed is doing just that.
On the international front, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached a peace agreement, marking a seismic shift toward peace and away from Iran in the Middle East. Kosovo and Serbia have also recently agreed to normalize relations after 12 years of bickering since Kosovo declared independence, removing another possible flashpoint from the perennially troubled Balkans. President Trump and his Administration played the decisive role in both these developments, bringing old adversaries together with real, positive results.
Like you, I want this COVID-19 pandemic to be over, for the limitations on our movement to end, for all children to be back in school in person, and for all college football teams to be playing a full season. But progress has truly been made and is ongoing, and we should note that progress as significant. I know it’s hard to celebrate in the middle of it all, as deaths mount and riots continue in some of our large cities. So, let’s just all say a prayer of thanks for the recent good news and a prayer that things continue to improve for us all.
Congressman Bradley Byrne currently represents Alabama’s 1st congressional district.