THE DON JONES INDEX…

  

 NOTE: Consequences of the Coronavirus (disappearance or inaccuracy of data, internet inaccessibility etc.) mean that this index may or will not be appearing weekly but rather biweekly, or monthly, or not at all.  We hope such readers as we still possess remain healthy and/or, as the religionists say, “see you on the other side”.  After all, how much worse can Hell be than another Georgia summer?

 

GAINS POSTED in GREEN

LOSSES POSTED in RED

 

 

   5/8/20…  13,943.63

   5/1/20…  14,111.94

   6/27/13…  15,000.00

 

 

(THE DOW JONES INDEX:  5/8/20…23,875.79; 5/1/20… 24,345.72; 6/27/13… 15,000.00)

 

 

LESSON for May 8, 2020 – WHO C.A.R.E.S.? (NOT W.H.O.)!  (including  A Journal of the Plague Year” (Part Four - A, for May 1st through 7th )

 

It should, by this time, be a tenet of the pandemic – obvious to all save those officials and authorities responsible for America’s response – that, as one scrolls down the deeds of economic status, those with the fewest resources will be most afflicted by the coronavirus.

Last week, we briefly touched upon some of the pitfalls awaiting America’s 47% (or 70% or, even 99% depending on your perspective as to who is wealthy, and who is not).  Let’s take a closer look… focusing on certain unpleasant realities that government compassion (or fear of revolution) may hold off awhile, but will eventually have to be faced… garnishment of the so-called “stimulus” payouts, foreclosures and evictions, homelessness, reduced or vanished credit, medical bills (CV and non-CV related), civil and criminal entanglements, parole and re-incarceration, “independent contractor” exploitation and the inevitable consequences of private and public indebtedness in the form of shutdown commercial options and higher prices.

There is some overlay and overlap between the working and “dangerous classes” – (those already unemployed and often unemployable due to factors like a lack of education, a criminal record, disability… including physical or mental illness, substance abuse… or living in an economic cold zone from which even the bad jobs have escaped)… some of the former who have been unable to save a portion of their wages for reasons sound or not have suddenly found themselves imprisoned in an elevator of downward mobility screeching towards a once-distance floor without brakes nor an alarm.  These now gather in hours-long lines for a pittance of free food or depend on the goodwill… inherent or governmentally coerced… of landlords and mortgage bankers to keep a roof over their heads.  Those not crawl off towards crowded and dangerous shelters or find nightly refuge in the cars… unless the repo men come by and confiscate those.

Perhaps, exasperated authorities choosing to follow the wishes of the prim and prosperous for whom compliance is merely an inconvenience, come to believe that these blots on the tapestry of human magnificence and dominion over beasts of the wild and birds of the air waiting in long lines for food, medical care (including testing) or just to file the paperwork that will keep them functional have to be done away with.  And, under the present less-than-dominating circumstances, this can take wildly variant forms.

Correctly anticipating that the side-effects of Coronovirus Number Nineteen (named after last year, when the plague first made its appearance in China) could and would be as existential as the disease itself, Washington lay aside its usual partisan enmities and, after some horse-trading, emerged with a series of restorative measures – passed nearly unanimously and promptly signed by President Trump.  These included a Small Business Administration loan program, a beefed-up unemployment relief act, aid to hospitals, farmers and debtors and… after a proposal by the nearly-forgotten Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang… a payout of $1,200 to adult American citizens earning less than $75,000 – more to families with children that they might meet immediate living expenses and so stimulate an economy that had virtually collapsed in March.  The legislation encompassing the stimulus payment but also including certain ancillaries and safeguards was… as the government is wont to celebrate and promote itself with positive-sounding acronyms… the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Trump signed the CARES Act on Friday, March 27, 2020, but the CARES Act didn’t include a provision to protect stimulus payments from debt collectors or creditors in bankruptcy, so there’s good reason to worry.

According to the legal information publisher and website NOLO, the measure was deficient not only in the case of private repo men, garnishers and shylocks, but in failing to protect its intended beneficiaries from the government’s own debt collectors… the IRS and the student loan mafia.  Subsequently the government sponsored student loan program backed off its original policy of snatching checks and many state legislatures passed protective statutes of their own, but the private lenders within the student loan umbrella still can and will grab every dollar that they can.

 

The CARES act…

 

The CARES Act authorizes payments up to $1200 to individuals and $2400 for couples, with an additional $500 for children under 17 years old. The payments phase out for those whose income is between $75,000 and $99,000 ($150,000/$198,000 for a married couple filing jointly). An eligible family of four with children under 17 will receive $3400. Social Security and SSI recipients who do not file tax returns will only receive $1200 as the IRS does not know which recipients have dependents. It is unclear whether these recipients will have an opportunity to provide dependent information in order to obtain the higher payment.

The U.S. Treasury started issuing stimulus payments as early as April 15th to income-qualified Americans. Payments will first be made electronically to individuals who received their tax refunds by direct deposit for their 2018 or 2019 tax returns. Social Security recipients, SSI, and railroad retirees who are not required to file a tax return and did not file a return for 2018 and 2019 will receive stimulus payments in the same way they receive those benefits—in almost all cases either through direct deposit to their bank account or loaded onto their Direct Express prepaid card.

The CARES Act didn’t include a provision to protect stimulus payments from debt collectors or creditors in bankruptcy, so there’s good reason to worry, according to the legal organization NOLO.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intends to use direct deposit to distribute economic impact payment funds when possible. However, like other unprotected funds, once placed in a bank account, stimulus payments are subject to seizure.

While it’s conceivable that a savvy judgment creditor might intentionally place a levy on a bank account (also called a garnishment in some states) before a recipient can withdraw funds, it’s even more likely to happen due to bad timing. Struggling debtors might lose the funds to creditors who were already in the process of taking collection actions.

Important Tip: Social Security benefits are protected from most creditors when deposited in a dedicated account not used for other types of funds (intermingling funds creates a tracing problem that makes proving the protected status challenging). If you aren’t required to file a tax return because you’re a Social Security benefit recipient, and the IRS automatically deposits your economic impact payment into the dedicated account, you’ll have a better chance of claiming that creditors don’t have the right to the funds. Learn more about Social Security direct deposit protections.

 

The Threat to Families’ Stimulus Checks

 

Certain creditors may view stimulus payments as an opportunity to seize money for amounts owed on outstanding court judgments, according to the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC).  Millions of Americans have court judgments against them—often issued many years ago by default without the consumer’s knowledge. These consumers may not realize that they are potentially subject to bank account seizure, including the immediate loss of a stimulus payment.

Creditors may be lining up to obtain court garnishment orders to seize stimulus deposits and any other amounts present in the bank account, up to the amount of the garnishment order. In some states, a previous garnishment order may still be in effect that obligates the bank to review the account and seize deposited funds for a period of time. Unless the federal government, state governments, or the courts direct otherwise (see below), banks that are presented with a garnishment order are likely to freeze amounts in the account and give the consumer a short time to prove in court that account funds are exempt from seizure—a daunting prospect at any time, and a near impossibility today when many courts are at least physically closed, people are ordered to stay at home, and attorneys are often inaccessible.

Garnishments from creditors are not the only threat to bank accounts. Consumers who owe money to their bank (for other loans, outstanding fees, or overdrawn accounts) may find their own bank seizing stimulus payments deposited at that bank, even if the bank does not have a judgment against the consumer. See Attachment Three:  “Will the Consumer’s Own Bank Seize the Stimulus Payment?”

Briefly, according to the NCLC, for most consumers, there is no magic bullet to avoid a creditor or their own bank seizing the consumer’s bank account.

Don’t expect outside help.  Not from the U.N. nor NATO – nor even the World Health Organization…

Maybe some inside help at the state and local level, though…

Last week, for example, Ohio Attorney General David Yost warned creditors that those one-time government checks are protected by state law from garnishment.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order Friday barring debt collectors and creditors from seizing stimulus checks sent to Oregonians under the latest coronavirus relief package.

“Many Oregonians, through no fault of their own, are struggling to pay their bills, their rent, or even buy essentials like groceries and prescription drugs,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “These recovery checks were meant to provide relief, not reward debt collection agencies for preying on Oregonians who have lost their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

These announcements were prompted by the CARES Act, the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus legislation passed by Congress, because it does not prevent private debt collectors from seizing the money for unpaid debts. The CARES Act does protect federal and state debts from garnishment.

“The stimulus checks were intended to be used during an emergency – to put food on the table, keep the lights on and a roof over our heads,” Ohio Attorney General’s Yost said in a statement. “It wasn’t meant to pay off an old bill.”

The most outrageous garnishments are those committed by private online “universities”, many of which have been fingered as out-and-out scams.  “I have real concerns that we are just leaving the millions of Americans who were forced to take on private student loans to try and get a better life for themselves just totally in the lurch,” says Seth Frotman, who was the student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau until 2018 and is now the executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center. Because of the burden of his loans, Lucas, for instance, still lives with family, can’t qualify for a credit card even though he makes a decent income, and says the only way he’ll ever pay off his loans is if he wins the lottery. “Don’t get private student loans. That would be my advice to anybody,” he says.

Of the legitimate lenders, the April 2nd edition of Time Magazine On March 27, the day the $2.2 trillion stimulus package was signed into law, the Student Borrower Protection Center and Americans for Financial Reform sent a letter to the 12 biggest private student lenders urging them to let borrowers cease payments without fees or penalties and to expand options for loan modifications. “If immediate action is not taken, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic could substantially imperil the financial lives of the millions of borrowers who relied on private student loans,” said the letters, signed by Frotman and Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst with Americans for Financial Reform, which supports stricter regulation of Wall Street.

TIME reached out to 11 of the 12 lenders asking about their policies during this time (One, Mohela, had no contact information except for its hotline for students.) Only one, Discover, is offering relief similar to that available to federal borrowers. Through its Skip-A-Pay program, Discover is letting borrowers who contact the company pause payments for two months, and during that time, be charged zero percent interest.

“We think it’s the right thing to do for our customers,” says Kate Manfred, senior vice president for Discover Student Loans.

Others, including College Avenue Student Loans, SoFi, Wells Fargo, PNC, Navient, and Truist said they were offering various forbearance programs that suspend payments, but interest will accrue during the suspensions. In some cases, that interest will be added to the loan’s unpaid balance, and borrowers will have to pay interest on the larger balance. LendKey said that since it services loans for hundreds of banks and credit unions, the policies vary from institution to institution, so it could not comment.

Another group of borrowers interviewed by Time had federal loans until they refinanced with private lenders who were offering extremely low interest rates.

When a friend last year recommended that it would be financially savvy to do this, Lauren Maupin, a nurse practitioner living in Lexington, Kentucky, went online and refinanced with SoFI, a personal finance company, significantly lowering her monthly payments. But now, she’s lost her income because the dermatology office where she works closed in response to COVID-19. If Maupin had stayed with a federal loan, she could have paused payments without accruing interest.

“I don’t have an income now, and I don’t know when I will have an income again,” says Maupin, who says she did not realize when she refinanced that she was turning her Department of Education loans over to a private company.

A SoFi spokesperson said that the company is working to assist borrowers and that it recently updated its website to make sure that people who are trying to refinance understand the protections that they are forfeiting. In a section with resources for borrowers affected by COVID-19, SoFi warns: “While forbearance will allow you to skip payments in the short term, it will extend the life of the loan and cause your loan to accrue more interest over the life of the loan.”

The company does not have a lot of wiggle room to just pause all interest, a spokesperson said. “Private companies like SoFi simply cannot do things like waive interest on our loans, as doing so would threaten our viability and breach our contractual obligations to investors who own the loans that we service,” the company said in a statement.

An early version of the CARES Act, Time added, “would have given relief to borrowers with private student loans. That version would have paid private lenders the money that the borrowers were not paying. But after the last financial crisis, the idea of having the government make payments to financial institutions was controversial. Some House Democrats also wanted the CARES Act to include some cancellation of student debt, but this was not included in the final bill.”

Three   two   one guesses as to whom was behind the scuttling of the provision.

Some folks from Jersey also have a few words for aggrieved or would=be borrowers… (See Attachment Four).

 

Here, now, is the week’s coronavirus developments, matched to those bubonic happenings in Camus’ “Plague” (italicized) in a roughly chronological order.  We have now reached the end of the first half of the novel (plus the fractional Part Three… the question is whether we have reached the CV midpoint.

To reiterate a few comparative and contrasting basics detailed in past Lessons – the fictional plague occurred over a ten month span around 1947 (the time of publication) give or take a year or two but, in any case, after the end of World War II.  The outbreak was confined to the city of Oran, a port on the coast of the French colony of Algeria, it was transmitted by rats and fleas and far more often fatal (if significantly more confined- due to the closing of the gates of the city) than is the present pandemic.  Moreover, the corrective measures taken by the respective authorities differed somewhat… Oran’s cafes, markets and cinemas and what economic activity continued were not affected, nor was there any concept of “social distancing” but those behind the walls were not allowed to leave the city on pain of being shot by the police – they were not even permitted to send or receive letters.  Consequently, those colonials separated from families overseas or in other parts of the country were more seriously afflicted, given the absence of social media or other means of communication with the outside world.

These differences were surpassed by similarities – disbelief (eventually turning to fear, then resignation), a general sense of futility, for most, resistance… sometimes violent… for a few.  There was no shortage of food nor medical equipment (one of the author’s few phenomena not anticipated), but there was hoarding, a black market, an abundance of rumours and conspiracy theories and the cupidity of the authorities, as well as innumerable acts of kindness and charity (weighed against a far smaller current of human despicability).

The principal characters of “The Plague” (“le Pest” in the original French) were the protagonist, one Dr. Bernard Rieux who dutifully ministered to the victims while his own wife was dying in a European tuberculosis sanitarium; a journalist, Rambert, also separated from his family; a stranger in town (but not Camus’ original “Stranger”), Tarrou; Father Paneloux, the Jesuit; Cottard, the black marketer; the Prefect (colonial Governor) and a supporting cast of colleagues, neighbors, infectees and the deceased – notably almost entirely male French colonials, with barely a mention of the native population. Such was the way of the world in the years after World War II.

After two lengthy episodes and a brief Part III (treated in its entirety last week) we progress to Part IV, with the plague lingering on during that hot, North African summer as our own pandemic reaches its crest in a few gravely afflicted locations (like New York and Italy) in this first week of May…

 

Friday, May 1, 2020

 

Infected: 1,070,620

      Dead:   63,000

 

     Dow:   23,761.16

 

Trump doubles down on Chinese germ warfare the cause of CV.  No bats! (nor, as China explains, no Wuhanite eating at a dirty, crowded restaurant in Guam).  DHS says Chinese faked numbers and reduced exports of PPE.  Retail workers from Amazon, WalMart, Instacart etc. go on strike over unsafe conditions.   Armed protesters storm state capitols as legislators don bulletproof vests.  Exhausted and discouraged media double down on happy news (“…powerful stories of recovery…).  Viz: 1,000th patient discharged from Lenox Hill NY death hospital.

BEGIN CAMUS, Part Four

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Throughout September and October the town lay prostrate, at the mercy of the plague.  There was nothing to do but to “mark time”, and some hundreds of thousands of men and women went on doing this, through weeks that seemed interminable… And all this time nothing more important befell us than that multitudinous marking time.”

 

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Congress still cowering in place, but state legislatures are returning to face unpopular budget cuts and tax hikes (Hint!  Gas at the pump, while it’s still cheap!)  More silver linings: quarantine reducing traffic and road deaths.  Infectees in Western Europe down, but Russia spiking.  Brazil and Ecuador emerging as epicenters of Latin American CV. Rich American urbanites fleeing to the boonies to escape high rents and disease.  New Mexico governor locks down Gallup with roadblocks.  Projected unemployment rises to 18% as Exxon declares loss of 610M.  Houston police investigates shots fired at chopper, Florida counter-protester stalks beaches dressed as the Grim Reaper.  With less than 1,000 remaining, Congolese gorillas are at risk.  Ex-Trump staffer Tom Bossert: “Accepting risk isn’t a personal decisions, it’s a community decision.”

“(T)he workers in the sanitary squads had given up trying to cope with their fatigue, Rieux noticed the change coming over his associates, and himself as well, and it tok the form of a strange indifference to everything.  Men, for instance, who hitherto had shown a keen interest in every scrap of news concerning the plague now displayed none at all…”

 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

 

 

Feds promise to buy 300M worth of farm surplus monthly to donate to food banks which are failing all over America… not from lack of food, nor volunteers, but warehouse space to accommodate social distancing regulations.   Hoarders drive meat sales up 40%, but lack of processing factory space (SD rules) and workers (sick) cut production 25% and cause Kroger, CostCo and others to ration meat and raise prices but alcohol sales are up too, and it’s not being hoarded.  WalMart plans to hire more workers, give bonuses.  Violent social distancing protests increase in NY and Texas ranger thrown into the drink.  Dr. Brix says maskless protesters who infect granny will “feel guilty for the rest of their lives.”  UK’s grampa, BoJo, says he was at the brink of death and planned successor… “a tough call”. 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, May 4, 2020

 

Infected: 1,158,341

      Dead:   63,000 m/l

 

     Dow:   23,761.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

 

Infected: 1,204,351

      Dead:   70,646

 

     Dow:   23,883.09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

 

Infected: 1,223,419

      Dead:   72,617

 

     Dow:   23,883.09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

 

Infected: 1,250,805

      Dead:   75,464

 

     Dow:   23,875.79

 

 

 

“Before the plague, (Dr. Rieux) was welcomed as a savior.  He was going to make them right with a couple of pills or an injection… now, on the contrary, he was accompanied… (t)hey would have liked to drag him, to drag the whole human race, with them to the grave.”

 

Reuters cites “familiar people” who report that China and U.S. should prepare for war.  (See Attachment Two, A and B)  Cases reported up in 17 states, including Utah, Texas, Missouri and Illinois; down in Italy, Spain, New York and… Illinois?  42 states ease restrictions as Trump’s magic crystal ball speaks: 100,000 deaths, max.  U. of Wash. predicts 134,000 while Johns Hopkins says U.S. daily deaths to double by June 1st, reach 200,000.  Six nuns die in Wisconsin convent.  Happy news: NT paramedic awakens after a month in a coma,  Unhappy news: child abuse workers report a spike in violence including three murders while “murder hornets invade Washington State.  Starbucks reopens but Ohio Governor warns: “No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.”

 

“Indeed, for Rieux his exhaustion was a blessing in disguise.  Had he been less tired, his senses more alert, that all-pervading odorof death might have made him sentimental.  But when a man has only four hours sleep he sees things as they are; that is to say, he sees them in the light of justice – garish, hideous justice.”

 

Carnival announces plans to resume cruises in August.  Optimists cite re-opened states up to 43. tout the pandemic as reducing the volume of robocalls (and robocallers in close, maskless quarters?) while entrepreneurs at Hasbro roll out “Baby Yoda Monopoly” for quarantined kiddies (adult version would have eviction cards, food lines and hot spot blocks for beaches and hospitals).  Pork production down 50% but, (correspondingly), the BBB reports CV scams up 50% and mixed-bag Cinco de Mayo reduced to vegan tacos, but with lots of tequila.  Wendy’s, running out of hamburgers, asks “Where’s the beef?” again as hungry Americans turn to fish.  Trump rolls out campaign ads invoking Frank Sinatra and justify his plague response… “He does it his way; he gets thing done.”  Interviewed by ABC’s John Muir, he blames Obama and (by implication) Joe Biden. 

 

“(T)he most dangerous effect of the exhaustion steadily gaining on all engaged in the fight against the epidemic did not come in their relative indifference to outside events and the feelings of others, but in the slackness and supineness that they allowed to invade their personal lives… (t)hus these men were led to break, oftener and oftener, the rules of hygiene they themselves had instituted; to omit some of the numerous disinfections they should have practiced, and sometimes to visit the homes of people suffering from pneumonic plague without taking steps to safeguard themselves against infection, because they had been notified only at the last moment and could not be bothered with returning to a sanitary service station…”

 

It’s National Nurses’ Day.  White House photo-op craters when Trump curses nurses who call the availability of PPE “sporadic”.  He declares that he will be “winding down” the CV task force and then, after a few hours of blistering denigration, winds down the winding down as scientists predict the plague will mutate and get stronger.  His (SCOTUS) nemesis, the Notorious RBG hospitalized for an “infection” but phones in her views on pending cases.  Half the reopening states see an increase in CV, the other half don’t.  Meat prices rise as processors close… beef up 60%... refinery shutdown slows gas.oil price plummeting.  Reopening: Chrysler, Disneyland, professional bull riding.  De-opening: AisBNB,  Nieman-Marcus.  Animal shelters filling up again as pet owners die.  Rebel hairstylist ordered jailed in Texas.

 

“’Have you noticed,’ (Cottard) asked me, ‘that no one ever runs two diseases at once?  Let us suppose you have an incurable disease like cancer or a galloping consumption – well, you’ll never get the plague or typhus; it’s a physical impossibility.  In fact one might go farther; have you ever heard of a man with cancer being killed* in an auto smash?’”    

 

* (Camus, himself, would be killed in an automobile accident in 1963.)

 

The President’s valet (the guy who serves Himself his Diet Cokes) gets it.  (Trump and Pence test negative.)  “This is an invisible enemy,” Djonald reiterates.  “It could happen to me.”  Asked about unemployment, he replies: “That’s what it is.  Even the Democrats can’t blame me for it.”  British children’s illness (Kawasaki ! disease) that weakens hearts crosses over the pond to New York… 64 infected.  Upbeat TV doctor: “An increase in a rare event is still a rare event.”  Upbeat (sort of) NIH director Dr. Collins: “CV doesn’t mutate like the flu.”  Execs predict mandatory social distancing will cause a 50% rise in air fares.  Meatpackers Smithfield and Tyson reopen still-dangerous plants; JBS spokesman in Nebraska says butchering hogs is not a job people can do at home and online.  Shelley Luther, the rebel hairdresser, released from jail.  Experts fear that plague will end the practice of blowing out birthday candles.  More beaches lift ban on umbrellas.

 

“They opened the glazed door.  It led into a very large room; all the windows of which were shut, in spite of the great heat.  Electric fans buzzed near the ceiling, churning up the stagnant, overheated air above two long rows of gray beds.  Groans shrill or stifled rose on all sides, blending in a monotonous dirgelike refrain.  Men in white moved slowly from bed to bed under garish light flooding in from high, barred windows.” 

 

 

 

The catastrophic Health and Labor categories of the DJI remain catastrophic, with more bad news to come in when the official stats come in, but a perhaps even worse scenario is unfolding with the discovery that a handful of the so-called “murder hornets” have decided to come to Washington State, one way or another.  Most of the media have noted them as semi-comedic filler, baloney to be fitted in between slices of happy news or celebrity gossip at the end of the daily broadcasts.  It’s not.  The funny not-so-little bugs with bright orange Trumpish faces like the monster “Mothra” in that old Japanese disaster movie pack a mean and often lethal sting, but the real damage they could do… damage that verges on the existential… is that they are obliterating Asia’s honeybees.  This not only means having to eat corn syrup substitute, but also means that there will be no waffles, nor toast, nor coffee to sweeten because the bees and other critters that the murder hornets chow down on pollinate ninety-something of edible vegetation.  Not only would there be no more peaches and no more broccoli, there will be no more bacon because animals in the wild and on the feedlot eat plants and, when their food is gone, they will starve and die.  Probably some quirky consumable will survive the MH plague… some tubers or the apparently indomitable kale, but without a food supply, the lives of humanity will be brief and brutal.

Also ignored by the media is the plague of locusts eating up all the crops in East Africa, so that makes three Tier One plagues afoot.  The latest asteroid recently missed us by an astronomical whisker, but could more disasters be forthcoming… flood and earthquakes, war (according to Reuters) and, of course, the inevitable advance of global warming.  Billy Graham’s boy is on the TV more often than the politicians, warning of the end times and begging for money that will somehow set the sinners right with God.  It’s going to be great times a-coming for the unlicensed street preachers, the MRE survivalists and the tinfoil brigade.

 

THE DON JONES INDEX

 

CHART of CATEGORIES w/VALUE ADDED to EQUAL BASELINE of 15,000

 

(REFLECTING… approximately… DOW JONES INDEX of June 27, 2013)

 

See a further explanation of categories here

 

 

ECONOMIC INDICES (60%)

 

 

DON JONES’ PERSONAL ECONOMIC INDEX

 

(45% of TOTAL INDEX POINTS)

 

 

CATEGORY               VALUE     BASE                   RECKONINGS                   SCORE       SCORE

 

         INCOME                  22%           6/27/13      LAST        CHANGE      NEXT         5/1/20          5/8/20            OUR SOURCES and COMMENTS

 

Wages (hourly, per capita)           9%                1350 points    4/8/20                  +0.46%              5/15/20              1,364.65             1,364.65                http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/wages  24.07              

 

Median Income (yearly)               4%                 600                 5/1/20                 +0.06%               5/15/20                623.14                623.51                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 34,006

                

Unempl. (BLS – in millions)        4%                 600                 5/1/20               +25.71%               5/15/20                445.73                445.73                 http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000   4.4

 

Official (DC = in millions)            2%                 300                 5/1/20                -11.22%               5/15/20                   98.53                 87.46                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 36,491

                                                                                                                                                                                           100.00               100.00

 

Unfficial (DC = in millions)          2%                 300                 5/1/20                 -0.06%                5/15/20                147.53                147.53                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 3.341

                                                                                                                                                                                          149.63               147.60

 

Out of Work (all categories)                                                                                    -1.36%                                                                                                 Total: 39,269

                                                        

Workforce Participation               2%                  300                5/1/20                                             5/15/20                 301.26               256.37                  In 127,967  Out 112,021 Total: 239,988          

   Number (in millions)                                                                                             -3.08%-

   Percentage                                                                                                              -14.90%                                                                                                Percentage In:  53.32

 

WP Percentage (*ycharts)             1%                 600                 5/1/20                 -1.10%               5/15/20                 148.58               148.58                  http://ycharts.com/indicators/labor_force_participation_rate  62.70

        

 

OUTGO                           (15%)

 

Total Inflation (aggregate)            7%                 600                 5/1/20                 +1.5%                 5/15/20                1,035.27             1,035.27               http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm      -0.4

        Inflation – Food                     2%                 300                 5/1/20                 +1.9%                 5/15/20                 291.66                 291.66                http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm      -1.9

                     - Gasoline                   2%                 300                 5/1/20                 -10.2%                5/15/20                 367.17                 367.17                http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm     -10.2              

                     - Medical Costs          2%                 300                 5/1/20                 +0.3%                 5/15/20                 295.52                 295.52                http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm      +0.3

                     - Shelter                      2%                 300                 5/1/20                 +0.3%                 5/15/20                 297.60                 297.60                http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm      +0.3

 

       WEALTH         (6%)                          

 

Dow Jones Index                           2%                  300                 5/1/20                 -1.93%                5/15/20                 259.42                 254.41                 https://quotes.wsj.com/index/DJIA  23,875.79

 

       Homes =   Sales                      1%                  150                  5/1/20                 +8.67%               5/15/20                 147.74                 147.74                 http://www.realtor.org/research-and-statistics

                    =   Valuation               1%                 450                  5/1/20                 +2.13%               5/15/20                 152.52                 152.52                    Sales (M):  5.27 Valuations (K):  281.0

 

Debt (Personal)                              2%                 450                  5/1/20                    +0.16%            5/15/20                 296.18                 296.18                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 62,353

                

 

 

AMERICAN ECONOMIC INDEX

(15% of TOTAL INDEX POINTS)

 

       NATIONAL                10%

 

Revenues (in trillions – tr.)           2%                 300                 5/1/20                 +0.17%                 5/15/20                 307.94                307.42                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 3,555

 

Expenditures (in tr.)                     2%                 300                 5/1/20                 +1.70%                 5/15/20                 224.21                220.40                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 6,173

 

National Debt (tr.)                        3%                 450                 5/1/20                 +1.23%                 5/15/20                 420.99                 415.81                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 25,040

                

Aggregate Debt (tr,)                     3%                 450                 5/1/20                 +0.10%                 5/15/20                 438.40                 435.96                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 77,229

 

 

         GLOBAL                    5%

 

Foreign Debt (tr.)                          2%                  600                5/1/20                +0.18%                5/15/20                  288.36                 287.83                 http://www.usdebtclock.org/ 7.193

 

Exports (in billions – bl.)              1%                  600               5/1/20               +10.35%                5/15/20                  149.56                 165.34                 https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/  187.7

 

Imports (bl.)                                  1%                  600                5/1/20                  -6.18%                5/15/20                  155.32                145.72                 https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/  232.2

 

Trade Deficit (bl.)                         1%                   600                5/1/20              +10.14%                5/15/20                  185.03                 166.28                 https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/  44.4

 

 

        

SOCIAL INDICES (40%)

 

LIBERTY and SECURITY INDEX

 

         ACTS of MAN        (12%)

 

World Peace                                   3%                 600                 5/1/20                    -3.0%                 5/15/20                 437.88                 424.74                 @

 

Terrorism                                       2%                 600                 5/1/20                       nc                    5/15/20                 301.75                 301.19                 @

 

Politics                                            3%                 600                 5/1/20                   +0.1%                 5/15/20                 457.49                 457.95                 @

 

Economics                                      3%                 600                 5/1/20                   -1.0.%                 5/15/20                 418.52                 414.32                 @

 

Crime                                              1%                 600                 5/1/20                  +0.8%                 5/15/20                  301.39                 298.78                 @

 

      ACTS of GOD         (6%)

 

Environment/Weather                  3%                  600                 5/1/20                   +0.2%                 5/15/20                 456.76                 455.85                 @

 

Natural/Unnatural Disaster         3%                 600                  5/1/20                   +1.3%                 5/15/20                 437.95                 432.26                 @

 

 

LIFESTYLE and JUSTICE INDEX              (15%)

 

Science, Tech & Education           4%                 600                 5/1/20                     -0.3%                 5/15/20                 608.98                 607.13                 @

 

Equality (social/economic)             4%                 600                 5/1/20                    -0.3%                 5/15/20                 602.43                 600.62                 @

 

Health                                              4%                 600                 5/1/20                    -10.0%*             5/15/20                 450.00                 450.00                 @

                                                                                                                                     (-16.63%)                                        269.98                 225.08

 

Freedom and Justice                      3%                 600                 5/1/20                    -0.6%                 5/15/20                 448.64                 445.95                 @

 

 

MISCELLANEOUS and TRANSIENT INDEX           (7%)

 

Cultural Incidents                           3%                 600                 5/1/20                   -0.3%                 5/15/20                  467.43                 466.03                 @

                

Miscellaneous incidents                 4%                 600                 5/1/20                   +0.1%                 5/15/20                  451.45                451.90                 @

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Don Jones Index for the week of May 1st through May 7th, 2020 was DOWN 158.31 points.

The Don Jones Index for the week of April 22nd through April 30th, 2020 was DOWN 75.74 points.

The Don Jones Index for the week of April 15th through April 21st, 2020 was DOWN 113.45 points.

The Don Jones Index for the week of April 8th through April 14th, 2020 was DOWN 263.90 points.

The Don Jones Index for the week of April 1st through April 7th, 2020 was DOWN 295.50 points.

 

The Don Jones Index is sponsored by the Coalition for a New Consensus: retired Congressman and Independent Presidential candidate Jack “Catfish” Parnell, Chairman; Brian Doohan, Administrator/Editor.  The CNC denies, emphatically, allegations that the organization, as well as any of its officers (including former Congressman Parnell, environmentalist/America-Firster Austin Tillerman and cosmetics CEO Rayna Finch) and references to Parnell’s works, “Entropy and Renaissance” and “The Coming Kill-Off” are fictitious or, at best, mere pawns in the web-serial “Black Helicopters” – and promise swift, effective legal action against parties promulgating this and/or other such slanders.

Comments, complaints, donations (especially SUPERPAC donations) always welcome at feedme@generisis.com or: speak@donjonesindex.com

 

 

 

BACK

 

See further indicators at Economist https://www.economist.com/economic-and inancialndicators/2019/02/02/economic-data-commodities-and-markets    

 

      * HEALTH  (accounting revised from 4/8) – In light of the spread of the coronavirus, making an objective (or even subjective) determination of its effect on Don Jones becomes a very dubious prospect; literally an all-or-nothing proposition where the prospects of the unfortunate sink to zero.  Then, there is the collateral damage to those sickened, but not terminated, by the virus, the friends and families of the deceased, the police, fire, EMT and medical workers laboring with what even President Trump now admits are inadequate protection, those who lose their jobs, businesses who lose their customers and have to shut down and a public deprived of social assemblies and ritual gatherings from holiday, arts and sporting events (today’s latest casualty, the Little League World Series).  Taking these into account would decimate almost the entirety of the Social index.  So here is our compromise.

       Coronavirus impact will not be factored into the individual social indices.  Moreover, “Health” will be given a “no change” rank for the duration.  However, a more or less general VC levy, a tax if you will, will be imposed on the entire Index at this category, although not deducted from the total score until a reckoning of some sort, some time into the future.  This “tax” will consist of two factors only… a rough case penalty of one percent for every 100,000 newly confirmed American victims per week (raised to 2% on April 15t) and another one percent “tax” on every one thousand new American deaths up to our “circuit breaker” maximum toll of 10%.  The results for April 1 – 8 were that amount was reached and exceeded by some two points,

        For the week of April 15th – 21st, the Index recorded 826,306 infections and 45,075 deaths as of Tuesday midnight… an escalation of 186,642 (or 1.87% per our formula, above… a higher number but lower percentage increase of 12.92% for the former, an almost identical 14,090 increase or a total 15.96% deduction from the unofficial score… that is, another 60+ drop in the weekly Don.  (There was no drop in the base, as the circuit breaker of 25% decrease was reached last week.)

        For last week-plus-one (April 22nd – 30th… the extra day taken so as to allow the inclusion of certain national monthly indices), there were 1,040,488 infections and 63,000 deaths (est.) as of Tuesday midnight… an escalation of 186,642 (or 1.14% per our formula, above) or minus 2.28 points.  The increase of approximately 18,000 deaths, added to the infection rate, created a pandemic point score of minus 20.28 points… a higher number but lower percentage increase of 12.92% for the former, a total 15.96% deduction from the unofficial score… that is, another 60+ drop in the weekly Don.  (There was no drop in the base, as the circuit breaker of 25% decrease was reached last week.)

        This week, infections were up to 1,250,805.  That figure represented an increase of 210,317 Americans (or so we presume since there may be hospitals treating and recording foreign plague victims).  For an eight day week, that would have resulted in a new infection rate almost equal to last week’s.  The increase of 12,423 deaths (75,423 minus 63.000 m/l) represented a decrease, even over the seven days counted in the previous week.  The extra day being of little import in the massive whole, we have a percentage decline of -16.63 percent… the stasis in new infections and the decrease in fatalities representing a downgrading down from those of previous weeks.  (Note that, since reaching its “circuit-breaker” low, the value of this particular Index has fallen by almost half, with more to come.)  This means that while the plague is reaching its “plateau” in new cases and deaths are falling (due mostly to testing and better medical care) by no means, will the CV be going away soon despite the denial of the authorities in what, tonight, amounts to 44 states.  The longevity of Camus’ plague… ten months… and its late-term effect on the characters should be illustrative..

 

 

     * UNEMPLOYMENT – The numbers are now in from Debtclock and, unlike the wholly rosy 4.4 rate promulgated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the horrific numbers washing in from DebtClock and other sources reflect reality, whether we like it or don’t.  The actual number of Americans out of work and filing for unemployment more than doubled; those also unable to work but not filing (or discouraged by long lines and bumbling processing) were up by a third.  In anticipation of worse to come (especially in the BLS figures by Mayday) we quick-gap capped the point value of the former at 100 (only a third of its revised standing on January 1st) while deducting the whole 126 point toll from the total Index.  (This happened so quickly that we weren’t even able to replace the actual point drop with a graduated decline, as with the subjective Health.  Since the Unofficial reports are also headed downward, though at a less rapid (roughly 35% pace), we’ll let it seek the 100 point basement, after which the same rules will apply.

     * WORKFORCE – The chaos factor wholly blew out our in/out workforce stats this week, so we let them sit at No Change.  Hopefully, this will be corrected next week (we’ve found an alternate, and more reasonable, source of Internet access.

 

 

Attachment One – from various

 

Debates – Irrelevant

Primaries – Who gives a rat’s ass (except for hungry coronavirii)?

Conventions -

Date Unknown: Democratic National Convention, in which delegates of the Democratic Party will crown Joe Biden for president and somebody for vice president in the general election

Date (or even existence) Unknown: The Republican convention scheduled in Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Presidential Debates – Unknown

General Election – November 3, 2020 (unless cancelled)

 

Attachment Two (A) – from Reuters, May 4th

 

Exclusive: Internal Chinese report warns Beijing faces Tiananmen-like global backlash over virus

 

BEIJING (Reuters) - An internal Chinese report warns that Beijing faces a rising wave of hostility in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that could tip relations with the United States into confrontation, people familiar with the paper told Reuters.

The report, presented early last month by the Ministry of State Security to top Beijing leaders including President Xi Jinping, concluded that global anti-China sentiment is at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the sources said.

As a result, Beijing faces a wave of anti-China sentiment led by the United States in the aftermath of the pandemic and needs to be prepared in a worst-case scenario for armed confrontation between the two global powers, according to people familiar with the report’s content, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

The report was drawn up by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a think tank affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, China’s top intelligence body.

Reuters has not seen the briefing paper, but it was described by people who had direct knowledge of its findings.

“I don’t have relevant information,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson’s office said in a statement responding to questions from Reuters on the report.

China’s Ministry of State Security has no public contact details and could not be reached for comment.

CICIR, an influential think tank that until 1980 was within the Ministry of State Security and advises the Chinese government on foreign and security policy, did not reply to a request for comment.

Reuters couldn’t determine to what extent the stark assessment described in the paper reflects positions held by China’s state leaders, and to what extent, if at all, it would influence policy. But the presentation of the report shows how seriously Beijing takes the threat of a building backlash that could threaten what China sees as its strategic investments overseas and its view of its security standing.

Relations between China and the United States are widely seen to be at their worst point in decades, with deepening mistrust and friction points from U.S. allegations of unfair trade and technology practices to disputes over Hong Kong, Taiwan and contested territories in the South China Sea.

In recent days, U.S. President Donald Trump, facing a more difficult re-election campaign as the coronavirus has claimed tens of thousands of American lives and ravaged the U.S. economy, has been ramping up his criticism of Beijing and threatening new tariffs on China. His administration, meanwhile, is considering retaliatory measures against China over the outbreak, officials said.

It is widely believed in Beijing that the United States wants to contain a rising China, which has become more assertive globally as its economy has grown.

The paper concluded that Washington views China’s rise as an economic and national security threat and a challenge to Western democracies, the people said. The report also said the United States was aiming to undercut the ruling Communist Party by undermining public confidence.

Chinese officials had a “special responsibility” to inform their people and the world of the threat posed by the coronavirus “since they were the first to learn of it,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in response to questions from Reuters.

Without directly addressing the assessment made in the Chinese report, Ortagus added: “Beijing’s efforts to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens and spread disinformation exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis.”

A spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council declined to comment.

 

REPERCUSSIONS

 

The report described to Reuters warned that anti-China sentiment sparked by the coronavirus could fuel resistance to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure investment projects, and that Washington could step up financial and military support for regional allies, making the security situation in Asia more volatile.

Three decades ago, in the aftermath of Tiananmen, the United States and many Western governments imposed sanctions against China including banning or restricting arms sales and technology transfers.

China is far more powerful nowadays.

Xi has revamped China’s military strategy to create a fighting force equipped to win modern wars. He is expanding China’s air and naval reach in a challenge to more than 70 years of U.S. military dominance in Asia.

In its statement, China’s foreign ministry called for cooperation, saying, “the sound and steady development of China-U.S. relations” serve the interests of both countries and the international community.

It added: “any words or actions that engage in political manipulation or stigmatization under the pretext of the pandemic, including taking the opportunity to sow discord between countries, are not conducive to international cooperation against the pandemic.”

 

COLD WAR ECHOES

 

One of those with knowledge of the report said it was regarded by some in the Chinese intelligence community as China’s version of the “Novikov Telegram”, a 1946 dispatch by the Soviet ambassador to Washington, Nikolai Novikov, that stressed the dangers of U.S. economic and military ambition in the wake of World War Two.

Novikov’s missive was a response to U.S. diplomat George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” from Moscow that said the Soviet Union did not see the possibility for peaceful coexistence with the West, and that containment was the best long-term strategy.

The two documents helped set the stage for the strategic thinking that defined both sides of the Cold War.

China has been accused by the United States of suppressing early information on the virus, which was first detected in the central city of Wuhan, and downplaying its risks.

Beijing has repeatedly denied that it covered up the extent or severity of the virus outbreak.

China has managed to contain domestic spread of the virus and has been trying to assert a leading role in the global battle against COVID-19. That has included a propaganda push around its donations and sale of medical supplies to the United States and other countries and sharing of expertise.

But China faces a growing backlash from critics who have called to hold Beijing accountable for its role in the pandemic.

Trump has said he will cut off funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), which he called “very China-centric,” something WHO officials have denied.

Australia’s government has called for an international investigation into the origins and spread of the virus.

Last month, France summoned China’s ambassador to protest a publication on the website of China’s embassy that criticized Western handling of coronavirus.

The virus has so far infected more than 3 million people globally and caused more than 200,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Editing by Peter Hirschberg

 

 

Attachment Two (B) – from Reuters, May 6th

 

Special Report: U.S. rearms to nullify China's missile supremacy

·          

HONG KONG (Reuters) - As Washington and Beijing trade barbs over the coronavirus pandemic, a longer-term struggle between the two Pacific powers is at a turning point, as the United States rolls out new weapons and strategy in a bid to close a wide missile gap with China.

The United States has largely stood by in recent decades as China dramatically expanded its military firepower. Now, having shed the constraints of a Cold War-era arms control treaty, the Trump administration is planning to deploy long-range, ground-launched cruise missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Pentagon intends to arm its Marines with versions of the Tomahawk cruise missile now carried on U.S. warships, according to the White House budget requests for 2021 and Congressional testimony in March of senior U.S. military commanders. It is also accelerating deliveries of its first new long-range anti-ship missiles in decades.

In a statement to Reuters about the latest U.S. moves, Beijing urged Washington to “be cautious in word and deed,” to “stop moving chess pieces around” the region, and to “stop flexing its military muscles around China.”

The U.S. moves are aimed at countering China’s overwhelming advantage in land-based cruise and ballistic missiles. The Pentagon also intends to dial back China’s lead in what strategists refer to as the “range war.” The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s military, has built up a huge force of missiles that mostly outrange those of the U.S. and its regional allies, according to senior U.S. commanders and strategic advisers to the Pentagon, who have been warning that China holds a clear advantage in these weapons.

And, in a radical shift in tactics, the Marines will join forces with the U.S. Navy in attacking an enemy’s warships. Small and mobile units of U.S. Marines armed with anti-ship missiles will become ship killers.

In a conflict, these units will be dispersed at key points in the Western Pacific and along the so-called first island chain, commanders said. The first island chain is the string of islands that run from the Japanese archipelago, through Taiwan, the Philippines and on to Borneo, enclosing China’s coastal seas.

Top U.S. military commanders explained the new tactics to Congress in March in a series of budget hearings. The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General David Berger, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 5 that small units of Marines armed with precision missiles could assist the U.S. Navy to gain control of the seas, particularly in the Western Pacific. “The Tomahawk missile is one of the tools that is going to allow us to do that,” he said.

The Tomahawk - which first gained fame when launched in massed strikes during the 1991 Gulf War - has been carried on U.S. warships and used to attack land targets in recent decades. The Marines would test fire the cruise missile through 2022 with the aim of making it operational the following year, top Pentagon commanders testified.

At first, a relatively small number of land-based cruise missiles will not change the balance of power. But such a shift would send a strong political signal that Washington is preparing to compete with China’s massive arsenal, according to senior U.S. and other Western strategists. Longer term, bigger numbers of these weapons combined with similar Japanese and Taiwanese missiles would pose a serious threat to Chinese forces, they say. The biggest immediate threat to the PLA comes from new, long-range anti-ship missiles now entering service with U.S. Navy and Air Force strike aircraft.

“The Americans are coming back strongly,” said Ross Babbage, a former senior Australian government defense official and now a non-resident fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a security research group. “By 2024 or 2025 there is a serious risk for the PLA that their military developments will be obsolete.”

A Chinese military spokesman, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, warned last October that Beijing would “not stand by” if Washington deployed land-based, long-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.

China’s foreign ministry accused the United States of sticking “to its cold war mentality” and “constantly increasing military deployment” in the region.

“Recently, the United States has gotten worse, stepping up its pursuit of a so-called ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ that seeks to deploy new weapons, including ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, in the Asia-Pacific region,” the ministry said in a statement to Reuters. “China firmly opposes that.”

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said he would not comment on statements by the Chinese government or the PLA.

 

U.S. MILITARY UNSHACKLED

 

While the coronavirus pandemic rages, Beijing has increased its military pressure on Taiwan and exercises in the South China Sea. In a show of strength, on April 11 the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning led a flotilla of five other warships into the Western Pacific through the Miyako Strait to the northeast of Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry. On April 12, the Chinese warships exercised in waters east and south of Taiwan, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy was forced to tie up the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt at Guam while it battles to contain a coronavirus outbreak among the crew of the giant warship. However, the U.S. Navy managed to maintain a powerful presence off the Chinese coast. The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry passed through the Taiwan Strait twice in April. And the amphibious assault ship USS America last month exercised in the East China Sea and South China Sea, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said.

In a series last year, Reuters reported that while the U.S. was distracted by almost two decades of war in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the PLA had built a missile force designed to attack the aircraft carriers, other surface warships and network of bases that form the backbone of American power in Asia. Over that period, Chinese shipyards built the world’s biggest navy, which is now capable of dominating the country’s coastal waters and keeping U.S. forces at bay.

The series also revealed that in most categories, China’s missiles now rival or outperform counterparts in the armories of the U.S. alliance.

To read the series, click here

China derived an advantage because it was not party to a Cold War-era treaty - the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) - that banned the United States and Russia from possessing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges from 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers. Unrestrained by the INF pact, China has deployed about 2,000 of these weapons, according to U.S. and other Western estimates.

While building up its missile forces on land, the PLA also fitted powerful, long-range anti-ship missiles to its warships and strike aircraft.

This accumulated firepower has shifted the regional balance of power in China’s favor. The United States, long the dominant military power in Asia, can no longer be confident of victory in a military clash in waters off the Chinese coast, according to senior retired U.S. military officers.

But the decision by President Donald Trump last year to exit the INF treaty has given American military planners new leeway. Almost immediately after withdrawing from the pact on August 2, the administration signaled it would respond to China’s missile force. The next day, U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper said he would like to see ground-based missiles deployed in Asia within months, but he acknowledged it would take longer.

Later that month, the Pentagon tested a ground-launched Tomahawk cruise missile. In December, it tested a ground-launched ballistic missile. The INF treaty banned such ground-launched weapons, and thus both tests would have been forbidden.

A senior Marines commander, Lieutenant General Eric Smith, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 11 that the Pentagon leadership had instructed the Marines to field a ground-launched cruise missile “very quickly.”

The budget documents show that the Marines have requested $125 million to buy 48 Tomahawk missiles from next year. The Tomahawk has a range of 1,600km, according to its manufacturer, Raytheon Company.

Smith said the cruise missile may not ultimately prove to be the most suitable weapon for the Marines. “It may be a little too heavy for us,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee, but experience gained from the tests could be transferred to the army.

Smith also said the Marines had successfully tested a new shorter-range anti-ship weapon, the Naval Strike Missile, from a ground launcher and would conduct another test in June. He said if that test was successful, the Marines intended to order 36 of these missiles in 2022. The U.S. Army is also testing a new long-range, land-based missile that can target warships. This missile would have been prohibited under the INF treaty.

The Marine Corps said in a statement it was evaluating the Naval Strike Missile to target ships and the Tomahawk for attacking targets on land. Eventually, the Marines aimed to field a system “that could engage long-range moving targets either on land or sea,” the statement said.

The Defense Department also has research underway on new, long-range strike weapons, with a budget request of $3.2 billion for hypersonic technology, mostly for missiles.

China’s foreign ministry drew a distinction between the PLA’s arsenal of missiles and the planned U.S. deployment. It said China’s missiles were “located in its territory, especially short and medium-range missiles, which cannot reach the mainland of the United States. This is fundamentally different from the U.S., which is vigorously pushing forward deployment.”

 

BOTTLING UP CHINA’S NAVY

 

Military strategists James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara suggested almost a decade ago that the first island chain was a natural barrier that could be exploited by the American military to counter the Chinese naval build-up. Ground-based anti-ship missiles could command key passages through the island chain into the Western Pacific as part of a strategy to keep the rapidly expanding Chinese navy bottled up, they suggested.

In embracing this strategy, Washington is attempting to turn Chinese tactics back on the PLA. Senior U.S. commanders have warned that China’s land-based cruise and ballistic missiles would make it difficult for U.S. and allied navies to operate near China’s coastal waters.

But deploying ground-based U.S. and allied missiles in the island chain would pose a similar threat to Chinese warships - to vessels operating in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea, or ships attempting to break out into the Western Pacific. Japan and Taiwan have already deployed ground-based anti-ship missiles for this purpose.

“We need to be able to plug up the straits,” said Holmes, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College. “We can, in effect, ask them if they want Taiwan or the Senkakus badly enough to see their economy and armed forces cut off from the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. In all likelihood the answer will be no.”

Holmes was referring to the uninhabited group of isles in the East China Sea - known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China - that are claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing.

The United States faces challenges in plugging the first island chain. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to distance himself from the United States and forge closer ties with China is a potential obstacle to American plans. U.S. forces could face barriers to operating from strategically important islands in the Philippines archipelago after Duterte in February scrapped a key security agreement with Washington.

And if U.S. forces do deploy in the first island chain with anti-ship missiles, some U.S. strategists believe this won’t be decisive, as the Marines would be vulnerable to strikes from the Chinese military.

The United States has other counterweights. The firepower of long-range U.S. Air Force bombers could pose a bigger threat to Chinese forces than the Marines, the strategists said. Particularly effective, they said, could be the stealthy B-21 bomber, which is due to enter service in the middle of this decade, armed with long-range missiles.

The Pentagon is already moving to boost the firepower of its existing strike aircraft in Asia. U.S. Navy Super Hornet jets and Air Force B-1 bombers are now being armed with early deliveries of Lockheed Martin’s new Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, according to the budget request documents. The new missile is being deployed in response to an “urgent operational need” for the U.S. Pacific Command, the documents explain.

The new missile carries a 450 kilogram warhead and is capable of “semi-autonomous” targeting, giving it some ability to steer itself, according to the budget request. Details of the stealthy cruise missile’s range are classified. But U.S. and other Western military officials estimate it can strike targets at distances greater than 800 kilometers.

The budget documents show the Pentagon is seeking $224 million to order another 53 of these missiles in 2021. The U.S. Navy and Air Force expect to have more than 400 of them in service by 2025, according to orders projected in the documents.

This new anti-ship missile is derived from an existing Lockheed long-range, land attack weapon, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. The Pentagon is asking for $577 million next year to order another 400 of these land-attack missiles.

“The U.S. and allied focus on long-range land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles was the quickest way to rebuild long-range conventional firepower in the Western Pacific region,” said Robert Haddick, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and now a visiting senior fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies based in Arlington, Virginia.

For the U.S. Navy in Asia, Super Hornet jets operating from aircraft carriers and armed with the new anti-ship missile would deliver a major boost in firepower while allowing the expensive warships to operate further away from potential threats, U.S. and other Western military officials say.

Current and retired U.S. Navy officers have been urging the Pentagon to equip American warships with longer-range anti-ship missiles that would allow them to compete with the latest, heavily armed Chinese cruisers, destroyers and frigates. Lockheed has said it successfully test-fired one of the new Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles from the type of launcher used on U.S. and allied warships.

Haddick, one of the first to draw attention to China’s firepower advantage in his 2014 book, “Fire on the Water,” said the threat from Chinese missiles had galvanized the Pentagon with new strategic thinking and budgets now directed at preparing for high-technology conflict with powerful nations like China.

Haddick said the new missiles were critical to the defensive plans of America and its allies in the Western Pacific. The gap won’t close immediately, but firepower would gradually improve, Haddick said. “This is especially true during the next half-decade and more, as successor hypersonic and other classified munition designs complete their long periods of development, testing, production, and deployment,” he said.

Reported by David Lague in Hong Kong. Additional reporting by the Beijing newsroom. Edited by Peter Hirschberg.

 

 

Attachment Three – from NCLC 4/24/20

 

Will the Consumer’s Own Bank Seize the Stimulus Payment?

 

Stimulus payments are at even greater risk of seizure by the consumer’s own bank or credit union (all references to banks in this article also apply to credit unions). Even if the bank does not have a court judgment against the consumer, the bank generally has the right to seize money deposited in the consumer’s account to repay amounts owed to the bank. This is called the banker’s right of setoff. See NCLC’s Consumer Banking and Payments Law Chapter 10.

Even if state emergency declarations prohibit or make it difficult for a judgment creditor to garnish a consumer’s bank account, the bank itself may not be covered by an emergency prohibition. Moreover, the bank does not have to seek out a seizure order from a court or other government agency—it can do it by itself. The law is far from clear about whether federal or state exemptions protecting amounts in a bank account from garnishment even apply to a bank’s right of set off.

Federal law prohibits a bank from exercising the right of setoff to seize money in the consumer’s bank account to pay for overdue credit card payments owed to the same bank unless the consumer has provided a consensual security interest in the funds (as with a secured credit card). See 15 U.S.C. § 1666h(a); 12 C.F.R. § 1026.12(d). This federal protection only applies to credit card debt though and does not protect the consumer’s bank account from setoff for amounts owed to that bank for other purposes. Seizure might occur to repay a delinquent car loan or personal loan, or amounts owed on an overdrawn account, including nonsufficient fund fees.

If a direct deposit of a stimulus check goes to a closed account at the bank, the bank will have to return the amount to the U.S. Treasury. See 31 C.F.R. § 210.4(c)(3). Treasury will then send the consumer a paper check unless the consumer has directed a direct deposit to a different account. The bank cannot seize the direct deposit on the closed account even if the consumer still owes payment to the bank. However, an account with a negative balance may have been charged off but may not be officially closed. In that situation, the rules governing closed accounts do not apply and the bank may attempt to keep the funds.

California Governor’s Executive Order N-57-20 (April 23, 2020) orders that CARES Act stimulus payments and any other government payments in response to COVID-19 are exempt from banker’s right of set off to the extent the funds are traceable in the bank account.

The New York Attorney General Guidance on CARES Act Payments (April 17, 2020) warns banks that it views set off of stimulus payments to be illegal and an unfair and deceptive and abusive practice and the state attorney general may prosecute banks that set off such payments.

A number of banks are announcing that temporarily they will not apply their right of set off against stimulus payments deposited with that bank. These banks include JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, USAA, and Wells Fargo. This is a temporary policy and the consumer’s account may be debited after the policy expires. See also Connecticut Banking Commissioner’s Guidance on CARES Act Payments letter to Connecticut Financial Institution CEOs (April 16, 2020) urging Connecticut banks not to set off stimulus payments.

See a bank-by-bank listing of virtually all banks and the actions each bank Is voluntarily taking. This should list whether a particular bank states that it is voluntarily refraining from set off of stimulus payments.

Since this is a voluntary action, the exact extent of the policy may vary by the bank making the announcement. One would assume that any bank with this policy will not apply its banker’s right of set off for a period of time to amounts owed the bank. For example, amounts overdue for a car loan should not be seized. A number of banks are also announcing a voluntary policy allowing the consumer to have access at least for a limited period of time to the full stimulus payment even if it was deposited into an account with a negative balance or even if overdraft fees are owed. However, implementation issues may result in stimulus payments being seized even at banks adopting this policy.

Whether or not a bank has announced such a voluntary policy, consumers who have found their stimulus funds subject to setoff should contact the bank to ask the bank to make the funds available.

Other than when deposited at a bank with a favorable voluntary policy, the stimulus payment is at great risk if directly deposited into a bank where the consumer is delinquent with that bank. Receiving the stimulus payment by a paper check and cashing it elsewhere will protect that payment.

For More Information

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has more information online about distribution of stimulus payments checks.

State-by-state summary of exemption laws: During the month of April 2020, NCLC is making a summary of each state’s exemption laws available to the public without a subscription from NCLC’s Collection Actions Appendix G.

NCLC's Treatise Section on Bank Account Seizures: For detailed legal rights concerning bank account seizures and freezes, see NCLC’s Collection Actions § 14.5.

NCLC’s Treatise Section on Banker’s Right of Setoff: See NCLC’s Consumer Banking and Payments Law Chapter 10.

NCLC's Major Consumer Protections Announced in Response to COVID-19: survey of recent federal, state, and corporate actions to protect consumers during the state of emergency. See https://library.nclc.org/major-consumer-protections-announced-response-covid-19.

NCLC's web page on COVID-19: recommendations and consumer protection actions concerning COVID-19. See https://www.nclc.org/special-projects/covid-19-consumer-protections.html.

Last updated: April 24, 2020

See more here.

 

Attachment Four – from Nj.com

 

Can debt collectors take my stimulus payment?

Posted Apr 03, 2020

By Karin Price Mueller

A consumer advocacy group is calling for the Treasury Department to protect Americans’ stimulus payments from debt collectors.

The coronavirus stimulus bill clearly says the federal government, during the coronavirus pandemic, will not garnish payments for overdue federal debts such as back taxes or unpaid student loans.

But there is no clarity about what happens to other kinds of debts, including those that can be garnished because of court orders by states or private debt collectors.

And what about private debt collectors who go after overdue federal debts? The IRS website says: “New delinquent accounts will not be forwarded by the IRS to private collection agencies to work during this period.” So advocates say that means while they won’t go after new collections accounts, older ones would still be fair game.

The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) says federal authorities should act immediately to ensure that stimulus payments are available for food and necessities and not snatched by creditors.

“People nationwide have suffered a dramatic loss of income and desperately need the stimulus payments that Congress just authorized for food, rent, utilities and health care,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director of NCLC, in a statement. “But if Treasury does not take immediate steps to protect the stimulus payments, debt collectors could grab the money out of the bank accounts of the families who most need the funds for their basic survival.”

NCLC officials said there’s a simple fix.

The Treasury Department can code the stimulus payments as exempt federal benefits in the same way it protects Social Security and other federal benefits from debt collectors.

“Treating stimulus payments as federal benefits will allow banks to use their systems already in place to preserve the money for necessities, not debt collectors,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel for NCLC.

Treasury has the authority to issue rules and guidance to carry out the stimulus payments, the group said, citing the language in the bill.

Plus, NCLC said, banks already have systems in place to automatically protect federal benefits so there’s no need to develop additional procedures.

The move would eliminate a lot of future headaches.

“Banks will not have to deal with irate customers when desperately needed funds disappear,” NCLC said. “State governments and courts will not have to issue emergency orders to protect these payments, or handle disputes about them, putting banks in the middle.”

Federal officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the New Jersey Treasury Department.

"Clearly the purpose of the individual payments authorized by the CARES Act is to give individuals critically needed funds for necessities, not to line the pockets of debt collectors and debt buyers,” Saunders said.

John Breyault of the National Consumers League (NCL) agreed with the plea.

“Debt collectors should not be able to access money the government is sending to consumers in an emergency,” he said, agreeing that Treasury should code the payments as federal benefits. “Consumers need to keep lights on and for debt collectors to come in and garnish those funds, it’s just unconscionable.”

The only debt that should be garnished is back child support, said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, though how those debts would be treated was not specifically addressed by Treasury or the IRS.

There is a precedent for garnishment for child support.

Collection of child support payments is administrated through the Treasury Offset Program, said Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst for The Tax Foundation. He said in 2008, the program did collect $842 million in stimulus payments, which included back child support.

This “suggests they may do so for the recovery rebates too,” Watson said.

“Advocates are all very concerned that what may seem to some like a modest government payment is a lifeline to many millions of families. It is critical that the government protect these funds from garnishment by debt collectors," said Ed Mierzwinski, senior director of U.S. PIRG,"NCLC has pointed out how simple a task that will be for Treasury to carry out.”

 

Attachment Five – from various

 

TIPS, TRICKS and TABOOS

 

Important Tip. Creditors have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against you under laws called “statute of limitations.” If a creditor files an action after the limitation period expires, you’ll have to ask the court to dismiss the case by filing a motion—statute of limitation dismissals don’t happen automatically.

How to Protect Your Stimulus Check From Creditors

You’ve likely already thought through the most obvious way to protect your economic recovery payment—but you’ll want to protect yourself, too. Here are the steps.

·         Opt for a mailed a stimulus check when possible and cash it.

·         Withdraw any stimulus payment deposited into your bank account as soon as possible. If a levy is in place before you make the withdrawal, you could lose your money (find out your options below).

·         Spend the cash on necessary items, such as food, utilities, rent, or mortgage payment, and keep good records.

If the IRS already has your account information, you can expect a direct deposit. You can check using the IRS “Get My Payment” tool. If it prompts you to provide your bank account number, but you’d prefer a paper check, don’t supply it.

Important Tip. Purposefully depriving creditors of payment can be fraudulent. However, you’re entitled to use your assets to provide basic life needs for you and your family. Plus, the purpose of stimulus payments is to lessen the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak—not to pay down creditors. So while it’s unlikely that you’ll run into a problem, keeping good records will help.

Also, history has shown that when collecting gets harder, creditors become creative. So stay transparent.