News & Commentary

January 14, 2021

Minnie Che

Minnie Che is a student at Harvard Law School.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives began debating the impeachment of President Trump based on an article of impeachment that accuses Trump of “incitement of insurrection” on the Capitol to stop the affirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. They voted to impeach him for the second time. However, Senator Mitch McConnell has stated that he will not use his emergency powers to reinstate the Senate into session for a trial before January 19, after Trump leaves office. This is not the only consequence in the aftermath of the violence last week. New York City announced that it is ending its contracts with the Trump Organization, a decision made by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The city is in the process of canceling contracts for two ice-skating rinks at Central Park, the Central Park Carousel and the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a city-owned golf course in the Bronx – all of which has earned the Trump Organization profits of $17 million annually over the years. A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, Amanda Miller, states that it will fight the decision. “The City of New York has no legal right to end our contracts and if they elect to proceed, they will owe the Trump Organization over $30 million… This is nothing more than political discrimination, an attempt to infringe on the First Amendment and we plan to fight vigorously.”

The New York Times reports a list of business and labor regulations that the Trump administration hopes to accomplish in his last few days in office. On Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order to ban transactions with eight Chinese software applications, the latest action in his economic war with China. A new rule published by the Labor Department could classify millions of workers as contractors rather than employees in industries such as construction, cleaning, and the gig economy. This would be another victory for companies like Uber and Lyft, as they do not have to pay contractors minimum wage, overtime, or a share of social security taxes and unemployment insurance. The Trump administration has also petitioned the FCC to narrow its interpretation of a law that protects platforms like Facebook and YouTube from lawsuits over content posted on their sites due to Trump’s belief that conservative content is removed or moderated. In December, the Department of Transportation authorized a rule that limits regulation over the industry’s definition of what constitutes unfair and deceptive practices. For more, read the article here. Although Biden could issue new executive orders to overturn Trump’s actions, the Trump administration is certainly hoping to finalize its agenda before Biden’s inauguration. 

Despite increasing vaccinations and a nearly $900 billion stimulus relief package, the economy and labor market is continuing to struggle, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report released by the Labor Department. Job openings dropped 105,000 on the last day of November, with 1.6 unemployed workers for every job vacancy. Layoffs also increased in the last months of 2020 as job cuts were led by the hospitality and food services industry. Lydia Boussour, a senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, says “Stripping out the wild monthly swings of the coronavirus recession, the rise in layoff activity is historically large and surpasses the increases seen at the height of the Great Recession.” This slow recovery may prompt additional action, such as another relief package, from Congress.  According to the Wall Street Journal, China is the only major economy expected to report growth for 2020, as it achieved a quick recovery from the pandemic and continues to expand its role in global trade.

Another industry that has suffered greatly in the wake of covid-19 is the arts. Jason Farago writes that the function of art is catharsis, “a cleansing, a clarity, a feeling of relief and understanding that you carry with you out of the theater or the concert hall.” And in our current times, catharsis is more important than ever. Yet professional artists are facing higher than average unemployment rates nationwide, with more than 52 percent of actors and 55 percent of dancers out of work at a time when the national rate is 8.5 percent. During this time, music venues, art galleries, shows, and dance companies have been closed. What can Biden’s new administration do for the arts? Farago suggests putting millions of American artists on the federal payroll, reviving a FDR-like New Deal. The administration could create a federal cultural works project that aids creatives in finding work and acknowledges culture as focal point of economic recovery.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed with the Trump administration as it reinstated the requirements that women seeking medication abortions must receive the pills in person at a clinic, as opposed to receiving them by mail or delivery. This order set aside U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang’s earlier ruling that following such procedures was dangerous and cumbersome during the pandemic. The majority did not explain its reasoning, while Chief Justice Roberts concurred that deference should be owed to the FDA and other experts in regards to the regimen for medical abortion. Justice Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer dissented against the majority opinion. “This country’s laws have long singled out abortions for more onerous treatment than other medical procedures that carry similar or greater risks,” Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Kagan, wrote in her dissent. “One can only hope that the government will reconsider and exhibit greater care and empathy for women seeking some measure of control over their health and reproductive lives in these unsettling times.”

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