Weekly reading 2

Apr 04, 2020
Democrats Push for Fed to Have Sole Sway Over Municipal Rescue - Bloomberg:

Congressional Democrats are pushing to have the Federal Reserve take over the rescue of state and local debt markets – cutting the Treasury Department out of the decision-making.

The central bank is expected to announce a new emergency facility to support municipal debt, part of the $2 trillion stimulus approved last week. It had the backing of progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans alike, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Mike Crapo. They’re urging the Fed and Treasury to move quickly.

Federal Reserve就是美联储,救世主力。Treasury Department是财政部,负责给联邦政府收税放债和管钱。美联储相对独立但财政部服务于联邦政府。Municipal bond是地方政府债券,是州及以下政府放发的债券。基本上两党都有些人不希望财政部通过两万亿救世法案去对地方债券有任何干预,他们更希望让独立的美联储去做。这是第一次美联储是从来没直接购买过地方债券。

The Federal Reserve is the central banking system. Its objectives are “maximizing employment, stabilizing prices, and moderating long-term interest rates”, and now also regulating banks in U.S. It doesn’t answer to the federal government (or the President), and considers itself independent.

Treasury Department is a branch under the fedenral government, and works for the President. It’s basically the accounting and finance org of U.S. It is responsible for the revenue stream of federal government (thru collecting taxes or issuing debts). It also prints dollars.

Municipal debts are managed and issued by local governments at or below state level, to usually finance public projects in local area (e.g. building subway).

The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19 - New York Times:

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, 68, a former military doctor and prominent AIDS researcher who directs the C.D.C., trusted his veteran scientists to create the world’s most precise test for the coronavirus and share it with state laboratories. When flaws in the test became apparent in February, he promised a quick fix, though it took weeks to settle on a solution.


Dr. Stephen Hahn, 60, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, enforced regulations that paradoxically made it tougher for hospitals, private clinics and companies to deploy diagnostic tests in an emergency. Other countries that had mobilized businesses were performing tens of thousands of tests daily, compared with fewer than 100 on average in the United States, frustrating local health officials, lawmakers and desperate Americans.


Alex M. Azar II, who led the Department of Health and Human Services, oversaw the two other agencies and coordinated the government’s public health response to the pandemic. While he grew frustrated as public criticism over the testing issues intensified, he was unable to push either agency to speed up or change course.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a branch under federal government. It governs all things health related. Both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are just federal agencies under HHS.

There is also this White House Coronavirus Task Force that overseeing all things COVID19 in U.S. This team has the highest exposure in terms of media because they hold daily briefings along with Trump. Head of HHS used to lead it until the Vice President Mike Pence took over. 类似于国内的中央应对新冠肺炎疫情工作领导小组和组长李克强。

Another often mentioned person is Dr. Fauci, a scientist and also one of the lead members of the task force. 福西在国内经常被认为是美版钟南山,但钟南山的职位是国家卫健委高级别专家组组长,福西的职位看起来只能算是“相关专家”。

On Jan. 7, the C.D.C. created an “incident management system” for the coronavirus and advised travelers to Wuhan to take precautions. By Jan. 20, just two weeks after Chinese scientists shared the genetic sequence of the virus, the C.D.C. had developed its own test, as usual, and deployed it to detect the country’s first coronavirus case.


The startling setback stalled the C.D.C.’s efforts to track the virus when it mattered most. By mid-February, the nation was testing only about 100 samples per day, according to the C.D.C.’s website.

Jan 20 is really early: China announced human-to-human transimission on Jan 21 and Wuhan lockdown happened on Jan 23. U.S. put on travel restriction from China on Jan 31. Yet for nearly the next month, only 100 was tested. Imagine a world where U.S. has acted quickly after Jan 20, even after Jan 31.

An Interview with Zeynep Tufekci About Masks, Media, and Information Ecology - Stratechery:

In the case of health, it gets a little complicated partly because there’s also an enormous amount of health misinformation out there, there’s anti-vaccination, there’s all sorts of quackery, there’s all sorts of cures that don’t work, there’s a lot of things that have spread partly because of social media. They go around doctors’ recommendations and they can just form their own groups and they can reinforce each other’s wrong health beliefs, which is why we have measles outbreaks. So the health misinformation is out there in many forms, both from people just making money or from people who are just for whatever cultural reasons have ended up where they’ve ended up. Usually what we say is, here’s the CDC sheet on why you should vaccinate, here’s what the authorities are right on. So health authorities aren’t like some uniformly terrible authoritarians, most of the time they’re right. So that kind of blinded people to the mask issue. They didn’t expect this to be the case, although I think once you start looking into it, it makes clear sense.

When health misinformation rises (e.g. anti-vaccine) gov departments like CDC acts as the saftynet and points out the wrong; when they are also in the wrong, media and news act as extra safetynet to call them out. 媒体导向太重要了。期望每个人都关心当下而且能独立思考是不可能的,即使在崇尚个体的西方文化里。Facebook的假新闻爆发就是最好的例子。

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