May 28, 2017

Hardliners turn on Gary Cohn over coal

Evan Vucci / AP

Almost three days have passed since Gary Cohn expressed skepticism about the future of the U.S. coal industry, but expect conservative hardliners to keep weaponizing Cohn's comments.

The offending comments, made by the President's top economic advisor Thursday aboard Air Force One: "Coal doesn't even make that much sense anymore as a feedstock. Natural gas ... is such a cleaner fuel ... If you think about how solar and how much wind power we've created in the United States, we can be a manufacturing powerhouse and still be environmentally friendly."

  • Breitbart News, the right-wing website formerly run by Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon, ran an immediate hit piece accusing Cohn of launching a "war on coal." The website followed by interviewing Joe Manchin — "a Democratic U.S. Senator from the heart of coal country in West Virginia" — who attacked Cohn from the right.
  • Myron Ebell, who ran Trump's EPA transition team and wrote the agency's action plan, isn't happy about Cohn's comments and emails me: "NEC Chairman Gary Cohn does not represent the people who voted for Donald J. Trump ... I hope that what President Trump learned is that the other G7 leaders are marching in lockstep in the wrong direction and that it is up to him to lead the world towards energy abundance and prosperity."
  • Thomas Pyle, who headed Trump's energy transition team, emailed me this in response to Cohn's comments: "The wind and solar industry has been built on the backs of American taxpayers and yet still produce a tiny fraction of the energy we consume in the U.S., significantly less than coal. President Trump is a successful businessman who understands the severe impacts that the policies of politicians past have had on working class families in the American Rust Belt. He hardly needs to evolve on this subject."

Go deeper

HBCUs are missing from the discussion on venture capital's diversity

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Venture capital is beginning a belated conversation about its dearth of black investors and support of black founders, but hasn't yet turned its attention to the trivial participation of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as limited partners in funds.

Why it matters: This increases educational and economic inequality, as the vast majority of VC profits go to limited partners.

Unemployment rate falls to 13.3% in May

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, with 2.5 million jobs gained, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The far better-than-expected numbers show a surprising improvement in the job market, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The difficulty of calculating the real unemployment rate

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Note: Initial traditional state claims from the weeks of May 23 and 30, continuing traditional claims from May 23. Initial PUA claims from May 16, 23, and 30, continuing PUA and other programs from May 16; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The shocking May jobs report — with a decline in the unemployment rate to 13.3% and more than 2 million jobs added — destroyed expectations of a much worse economic picture.

Why it matters: Traditional economic reports have failed to keep up with the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and have made it nearly impossible for researchers to determine the state of the U.S. labor market or the economy.