May 16, 2021

Axios AM

🚨 Tonight on "Axios on HBO" (6 p.m. ET, HBO and HBO Max): Margaret Talev talks with Jonathan Swan about an exclusive he's breaking with Zachary Basu.

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 1,146 words ... 4½ minutes.
1 big thing ... Biden’s danger: The great overreaction
President Biden looks at his notes as he speaks on his American Jobs Plan in Lake Charles, La., on May 6. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Some Democrats and economists have begun to worry that President Biden, intent on FDR-like transformation of a wounded America, is doing too much, too fast:

  • You see this in complaints by employers— along with some early data, and loads of anecdotal evidence —that people aren't taking jobs because of the boost to unemployment payments.
  • You see this in the news that budget deficits in states weren't nearly as bad as expected. "Let the good times roll!" says an L.A. Times headline this weekend. "Gusher of stimulus funds a gift for governors like Gavin Newsom."
  • Yet Biden still wants to spend more.

Why it matters: Some economists fear that all this spending will crank up inflation, and put Biden’s economic legacy at risk.

Larry Summers — who was Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and started warning about inflation in February — told Axios' Hans Nichols he's more concerned than he was several months ago.

  • "Data are pointing more towards higher inflation than I expected, and sooner."

The other side: The White House contends that more Americans will join the labor force when the country is fully vaccinated and everyone feels safe going back to work.

  • The White House also is banking on schools reopening in the fall, allowing working parents to look for jobs instead of looking after their kids, Zooming away in virtual class.
  • As for inflation, White House officials insist that it'll be temporary. They don’t buy the view that enhanced unemployment insurance is encouraging workers to stay at home. But they hint that higher wages might be needed to convince some Americans to look for work.

Some Democrats have begun arguing behind the scenes that Biden needs to show Americans credible evidence that tax increases will be timed with the spending.

  • "If the spending is coming up front, and the taxes are coming down the road, then on net, that's going to add fuel to the fire," Summers said.
  • But Summers mostly blames the Fed for rising prices: "I think it is bizarre to be buying $40 billion a month of mortgage securities, when the housing market is on fire."

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2. Breaking: Israeli cabinet decides to continue military operation
A Gaza City building that included AP and Al-Jazeera offices is hit by an Israeli airstrike yesterday. Photo: Hatem Moussa/AP

Axios Tel Aviv correspondent Barak Ravid reports: The Israeli security cabinet today decided to continue the Gaza operation, according to military plans. Israeli officials said a ceasefire isn't on the table.

  • Why it matters: There was a growing feeling inside the military and the senior defense establishment ahead of the cabinet meeting that Israel should start moving toward ending the operation. But the cabinet barely discussed a ceasefire when it convened.

The latest: The Gaza ministry of health announced Sunday that 181 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes — 83 of them were women and children. More than 1200 Palestinians have been wounded.

  • The Israeli military said more than 3,000 rockets were launched from Gaza since the beginning of the escalation.
  • Keep reading.

📺 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told John Dickerson on CBS' "Face the Nation" that a Hamas intelligence office was housed in the 12-story building that was toppled by Israel airstrikes yesterday, though he didn't provide evidence:

  • "So it's a perfectly legitimate target. And I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure that there were no civilian ... deaths."
3. Gaza diary: Shouts, evacuation, bombs
Yesterday's collapse of a Gaza City tower that included media offices. Photos; Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Fares Akram, AP's correspondent in Gaza City since 2014, writes:

My colleagues' shouts awakened me, and the pounding of my heart drowned out the racing of my mind. What was happening? Had someone been injured on the streets of Gaza City, or worse?
It was 1:55 p.m. on Saturday. I had been napping on the upper floor of the two-floor penthouse that served as The Associated Press' offices in Gaza City since 2006. ... [S]ince fighting began earlier this month, I had been sleeping in our news bureau until early afternoon, then working through the night.

Akram hurried downstairs and saw colleagues donning helmets and vests, and shouting: "Evacuation!"

I was told: You have 10 minutes. [A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were in the building.] ... I grabbed my laptop and a few other pieces of electronics. ...
I looked at the workspace that had been mine for years, brimming with mementos from friends, family and colleagues. I chose just a handful: a decorative plate bearing a picture of my family. A coffee mug given me by my daughter, now living safely in Canada with her sister and my wife since 2017. A certificate marking five years of employment at AP. ...
I looked around. I was the last person there. I put on my helmet. And I ran.

Keep reading.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Vatican Media via AP

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, now President Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate, met privately with Pope Francis at the Vatican yesterday.

  • Go deeper: Kerry tells Vatican News after the meeting that the pope "is one of the great voices of reason and compelling moral authority on the subject of the climate crisis. He's been ahead of the curve."
5. 411 suspects in Capitol riot
Graphic: Ashlyn Still and Adrián Blanco/The Washington Post. Click for interactive version.

Prosecutors have filed at least one charge against 411 suspects in the Capitol riot, and have charged about 75 people with assaulting police, The Washington Post reports:

  • "Those charged publicly so far with federal crimes hail from 259 counties spread across 44 states and D.C., according to an analysis by The Washington Post of court filings."
  • About 15 are U.S. military veterans.

P.S. A separate story on The Post's Metro front concludes that most of the defendants won't serve time:

About 44 percent of those accused in federal court [181 of 411] ... are charged solely with low-level crimes, primarily trespassing or disorderly conduct on restricted grounds, which typically don’t result in a jail or prison sentence for first-time offenders.
6. 🎓 What it was like for the high school Class of '21

Suzanne, a sophomore at Hickman High School in Columbia, Mo., looks at her computer as she sits on her bed. Photo: Kholood Eid for The New York Times

For a 21-page spread in today's N.Y. Times Magazine, Susan Dominus starting following group of A.P. students in Columbia, Mo., last fall:

The first week of December represented a new turning point for [MacKenzie Everett-Kennedy, an A.P. World teacher], who was seeing in her students a level of darkness that left her feeling flat-out terrified for them. ... Students were asking how they could access counseling — that week alone, she estimated, she was aware of 10 students in her two A.P. classes who were in crisis. ...
It was demanding work, with a heavier emotional load than her $50,000-a-year job normally required. Every one of those crises required multiple email conversations with the parents, with the student, with the counselor, and not one of those emails could be written with anything other than the utmost care and sensitivity.

In a behind-the-scenes piece for "Times Insider," Susan Dominus writes that her work on the piece helped her with her own twin teenage sons:

I tried to ask my own sons the right questions, and not too many of them. I tried to bring them tea when they were moody, and not to lecture them about attitude or trying harder.

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